Biden Administration Bans Fossil Fuel Usage In Federal Buildings

The U.S. Department of Energy has finalized a rule banning fossil fuels from new and renovated federal buildings. The Clean Energy for New Federal Buildings and Major Renovations of Federal Buildings Rule, mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, mandates a phased reduction in fossil fuel usage in these buildings. The law requires federal buildings and major renovations to phase out fossil fuel-generated energy consumption by 2030. This provision had been pending due to regulatory delays until now.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm highlighted the significance of this rule, emphasizing the federal government’s commitment to energy efficiency and cost savings: “The Biden-Harris Administration is practicing what we preach. Just as we are helping households and businesses across the nation save money by saving energy, we are doing the same in our own federal buildings.”

With commercial and residential buildings contributing 13% of direct greenhouse gas emissions in 2022, primarily from burning natural gas, the focus has shifted towards electrification. This entails transitioning from gas to cleaner electricity sources like wind and solar power.

Given the absence of regulations enforcing the removal of gas-fired appliances, some federal buildings continue to install them. For instance, Independence Hall in Philadelphia plans to switch to gas-fired boilers instead of remaining connected to a city-wide steam loop for heating.

While projects that are already underway, like Independence Hall, are exempt from the new rule, its implementation aims to accelerate the electrification of federal sites as envisioned in EISA’s Section 433. Advocated by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), this provision sought to leverage government leadership to drive technological advancements and cost reductions in climate-friendly measures.

Complemented by Executive Order 14057 and other Federal Sustainability Plan initiatives, the new rule is aimed at the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2045, supported by DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). Through supplemental guidance and resources, FEMP will assist agencies in achieving compliance, facilitating clean energy deployment and phasing out on-site fossil fuel usage. This milestone reflects extensive engagement with federal stakeholders, underscoring the collaborative effort to accelerate the adoption of clean energy within the federal building sector.

The Energy Department faced delays in implementing the rule, largely due to opposition from natural gas utilities concerned about potential business losses. The American Gas Association criticized the final rule, citing cost increases and lack of environmental benefits.

However, the Energy Department’s analysis countered that the rule is projected to reduce carbon emissions by 2 million metric tons and methane emissions by 16 thousand tons, equivalent to the emissions of nearly 310,000 homes annually.

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