A New Federal Funding Program Can Help Agencies Achieve Energy Savings Quickly
A wise man once said: “Have the courage to keep it simple.”
In a world of complex missions, increased reporting, and declining budgets, simplicity seems like a thing of the past. Never before have federal agencies been asked to do so much, with so little, so fast. However, for one aspect of operations, facility energy use, there is hope. A new energy efficiency funding program, called ESPC ENABLE, seeks to keep things simple. Building on the 20 year history of their ESPC program, last summer the Department of Energy (DOE) introduced a simplified version of the contract which is now available to all federal agencies. The program, created and administered by DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP), helps federal agencies meet energy mandates quickly by implementing simple Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) in smaller buildings, typically under 200,000 square feet.
The ESPC ENABLE program isn’t a silver bullet for all energy efficiency needs, but rather should be considered an “arrow in your quiver” of funding tools. It’s meant to complement existing programs like the DOE ESPC ID/IQ contract, Army ESPC contract, and Energy Conservation Investment Program (ECIP). Regardless, it fills a much needed gap at a critical time for federal agencies.
Besides Another Acronym, What is ESPC ENABLE?
Acronym check! ESPC stands for Energy Savings Performance Contracting. ESPC is a funding and contracting vehicle which uses energy savings, guaranteed by an Energy Services Company (ESCO), to pay for energy efficient retrofits over time. So what does ENABLE stand for? Surprisingly, ENABLE isn’t an acronym, but rather its name is rooted in its intention to ENABLE federal agencies to meet energy savings goals in buildings that traditionally get left behind due to their smaller size. Because the retrofits pay for themselves federal agencies can implement them without using appropriated funds. Read more about the DOE’s ESPC program here. For even more, check out my colleague, Miles Auvil’s, recent blog post on using ESPCs for datacenter consolidation.
ESPC ENABLE vs. “Traditional” ESPC
So what’s different about the ESPC ENABLE program compared to the traditional ESPC contract? For starters, it’s faster. Projects can go from acquisition planning to energy savings in as little as 6 months, where the standard ESPC process can take as long as 60 months! Secondly, it’s simpler. Instead of nineteen ECMs, there are three, making the technical review and approvals much easier. Finally, it’s streamlined. These projects are procured using the GSA Schedule 84 SIN 246-53 and the competitive process has been shortened from a two step down-selection to a single 10 page qualifications-based response from each ESCO. The two step down-selection process often results in hundreds of pages of technical content for agencies to review, so eliminating it saves valuable time.
Small Business Utilization
In addition to meeting energy mandates, ESPC ENABLE helps agencies achieve small and disadvantaged business utilization goals by allowing them to work directly with small businesses as prime contractors, or with large businesses, like Schneider Electric, who use small businesses in their subcontracting efforts. Schneider Electric maintains a pool of over 100 top notch, pre-qualified small business specialty contractors across the country.
Simply put, the ESPC ENABLE program diverts operational funds (normally allocated to energy and utility bills) to capital improvement projects such as lighting and plumbing fixture upgrades. This frees up appropriated funds to go towards mission-critical needs such as X-Ray machines, IT equipment, and warfighter training. Further, it can help agencies achieve federal small business utilizations goals.
One More Thing
Borrowing a quip from Steve Jobs, I must add that “there’s one more thing.” Since the ESPC ENABLE program is still in the pilot phase, FEMP is offering FREE project facilitation services through the end of FY13. If FEMP is especially persuasive, it could be free in FY14 too. So now is the time to act. In this time of unending complexities, have the courage to keep things simple. Federal agencies should consider the ESPC ENABLE program for their facilities.