"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation

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How PG&E Helps Federal Agencies Do More With Less

By Jonathan Marshall

Working with PG&E, NASA Ames is replacing boilers, installing LED lighting and making other energy-efficiency measures.

Doing more with less seems to be a universal mandate these days, but nowhere more so than in the federal government, where budget cutting is pervasive. That’s one reason three dozen representatives of 14 federal agencies showed up today (May 2) at PG&E’s Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco for a Federal High Tech Building Efficiency Summit.

The workshop, co-sponsored by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), featured technical experts from that facility addressing energy-saving solutions for federal data centers and laboratories. The presentations will help federal agencies meet President Obama’s December 2, 2011 directive to promote ambitious energy conservation goals—with an investment target of $2 billion over the next two years.

Learn more about the California model for energy efficiency

Participants also learned about Utility Energy Service Contracts (UESCs) – a unique way to enlist local utilities to help devise, implement, and finance energy efficiency measures that can save their agencies money, meet federal environmental goals, and make their facilities more pleasing and productive for occupants.

PG&E began participating in the UESC program four years ago. Today the utility has multi-million dollar contracts to serve NASA, the Veterans Administration and the Internal Revenue Service, and is in discussion with several other agencies that have major facilities in Northern and Central California.

“The program turns utilities like PG&E into a conduit for federal agencies to get energy management solutions underway,” said Chris Gillis, a principal account manager at PG&E who sits on the steering committee of the Federal Utility Partnership Working Group. “In our case, it takes advantage of our 36 years of experience in every facet of energy efficiency.”

PG&E has recruited a short list of highly qualified energy service contractors, engineering design firms, and finance sources who can team with federal agencies to deliver solutions at their facilities across PG&E’s 70,000 square mile service area. Said Gillis, “We focus on large, integrated solutions including lighting, HVAC, boilers, renewable energy, and even water.”

The focus of today’s workshop reflected the extraordinary increase in energy demand by data centers and labs in the federal sector, paralleling a similar trend in the private sector. Data centers use 50 to 100 times as much power as ordinary offices of similar size. Currently, federal data centers account for about 10 percent of all data center energy use in the United States.

Dale Sartor, building applications team lead at LBNL and one of the presenters, told me his own lab’s total electricity demand today is about 13 megawatts, but a new data center under construction will add another 17 megawatts of load.

“It will more than double our energy use,” he said, noting that the additional computing power will dramatically increase research productivity as well. “But with that impact comes opportunity,” he continued. With the latest data center design techniques, “you can enjoy energy savings of 30 to 40 percent, and even more is possible with aggressive strategies.”

Now that’s what I call doing more with less.

Email Jonathan Marshall at jonathan.marshall@pge.com.

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.