September 12, 2011 • Current Events, Energy Efficiency, Green Buildings

A look at government spending

by Jackie Cobb

Given the recent debt crisis and the ensuing focus on government spending, I figured it would only be appropriate for the Summit Energy Watercooler blog to chime in on the topic as well.

While the debt ceiling debate finally yielded a compromise at the 11th hour, it has become clear that it certainly didn’t provide us with an end-all-be-all solution for the issue of US financial stability. (I’d argue there can’t be just one solution, but that’s for another post.)

Few need reminding that the first week of August yielded a drop in the Dow to below 11,000 (although it has since bounced above it) and a downgrade of America’s sterling AAA credit rating to AA+.

As the Congress, President and Administration try to tackle the country’s systemic policy and finance problems, there will continue to be discussions about popular line items in government spending, like Social Security, Medicare, agricultural subsidies.

I argue we should add one more to the list – ENERGY.

It is thought that the US federal government spends over $7 billion (yes, with a “b”) on energy commodities every year. Electricity, natural gas, steam, and more are needed to operate thousands of government buildings: military bases, lodging, commissaries, social service facilities, and capitol buildings – the list goes on and on.

To give credit where credit is due, many departments are making efforts to aggressively decrease energy consumption. Check out the home page for the Department of Defense – it has pictures of windmills and solar panels on it. (It certainly surprised me not to see tanks, aircraft or soldiers!)

However, there is always a multitude of additional, innovative approaches and technologies to minimize GHG emissions and energy costs. By seeking best-in-class approaches for energy procurement, demand response and utilities management, the US government could realize benefits that companies worldwide have captured for quite some time. Given the successes that Summit Energy and Schneider Electric have had developing energy management and sustainability strategies for its customers, I’m confident the US government has the potential to reduce both the financial AND environmental burden of its massive energy spend.

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