GSA officials say they are off to a fast start on energy-efficiency projects

General Services Administration officials gave lawmakers an Earth Day gift on Wednesday by assuring them the agency is moving forward quickly on economic stimulus projects to increase energy efficiency in federal buildings.

Paul Prouty, acting GSA administrator, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee the agency has begun implementing innovative upgrades to federal facilities, such as installing an energy-efficient, blast resistant double glass enclosure around the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, Ore.

GSA also is making smaller, more immediate improvements, Prouty testified. Changes such as installing intelligent lighting systems and replacing flat roofs with greener alternatives can be implemented quickly in hundreds of buildings, he said.

Stimulus funds for green technologies and building improvements offer "an unprecedented and exciting opportunity," Prouty told the panel. He warned, however, that making federal buildings more energy efficient will be an ongoing process. Laws, including the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, require GSA to reduce energy consumption in the buildings it manages by 30 percent by 2015, and gradually decrease use of fossil fuels in new federal buildings until they are carbon-neutral in 2030.

"Although the Recovery Act will accelerate our progress in these areas, it alone will not enable us to meet these goals," Prouty said.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., took aim at skeptics of making energy efficiency a priority during a recession, arguing the federal government must take the lead not only in conservation, but in the creation of jobs through green renovations and construction.

"There needs to be someone showing that, yes, there is a model for everyone else to follow," Boxer said. "I want us to be that model."

Lane Burt, energy policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said making facilities greener is the most cost-effective energy solution available, since the building sector is the single largest source of global warming-inducing pollution in the United States.

According to Doug Gatlin, vice president of market development of the U.S. Green Building Council, a 15 percent decrease in energy use at federal facilities could generate more than $650 million in annual savings and eliminate roughly 2.7 million tons of carbon in one year.

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