Audit Report on "The Department of Energy's Opportunity for Energy Savings Through the Use of Setbacks in its Facilities"

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Our testing at Office of Science and National Nuclear Security Administration facilities revealed that the Department either did not use or failed to properly maintain setback systems and equipment in a number of instances. At just the four sites we visited, the Department had not ensured that setback conservation methods were used for 35 of the 55 (approximately 64 percent) owned or leased buildings included in our review. The buildings that did not use setbacks capabilities to control energy consumption comprised over one million square feet of space. Specifically: Although in place or capable of being deployed, officials did not ... continued below

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Creator: Unknown. July 1, 2009.

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Our testing at Office of Science and National Nuclear Security Administration facilities revealed that the Department either did not use or failed to properly maintain setback systems and equipment in a number of instances. At just the four sites we visited, the Department had not ensured that setback conservation methods were used for 35 of the 55 (approximately 64 percent) owned or leased buildings included in our review. The buildings that did not use setbacks capabilities to control energy consumption comprised over one million square feet of space. Specifically: Although in place or capable of being deployed, officials did not utilize setbacks in 20 separate buildings; and, Equipment in 15 other buildings had either never been enabled or had deteriorated and was no longer functional, thus making setbacks impossible. Typical of the problems we noted, the Y-12 National Security Complex recently leased two buildings that were constructed with setback capability. The property manager for these buildings told us that the setback equipment was not used because the owner of the properties had not purchased the software necessary to enable the capability. In another case, we learned that Los Alamos National Laboratory was not using the setback capability in two buildings because facility operators and tenants had not been trained on operating the setback control system. Finally, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory lost the ability to operate the setback equipment in two buildings when the electronic control system failed in 2008. Laboratory officials told us that they elected not to replace it because they planned to implement campus-wide energy conservation measures in the future. In spite of its energy conservation leadership role, we found that the Department and its facility contractors did not place adequate emphasis on reducing energy consumption through the application of setbacks. Of particular significance, we found that the Department had not always required the operation of setback capabilities in building lease agreements. This was especially troubling given the expanded use of leased space to house Departmental operations. Despite discussions with several Federal and contractor officials, we could not obtain what we considered to be a satisfactory explanation as to why the Department failed to take advantage of this conservation practice, one that is generally low cost and has limited, if any, adverse impact on operations or building occupants. Consistent with the lack of emphasis in this area, we noted that the Department had not required the four contractors included in our review to develop training requirements or energy policies and procedures governing the use of setback capabilities. Energy consumption reduction goals related to setbacks had also not been established to help incentivize contractor performance in this important area. With nearly $300 million in annual utility costs, the Department could realize significant savings by using setbacks in its buildings. We estimate that the Department could save over $11.5 million in annual utility costs. We developed the estimate based on the observation that approximately 64 percent of the facilities included in our review had not used setbacks. We then conservatively applied a 15 percent energy consumption savings estimate observed by Sandia National Laboratory and savings estimates contained in a study conducted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to the 40 percent of utility costs generally recognized as resulting from HVAC operation. Such savings could be used to fund high priority programs and install additional energy saving features. The consumption savings would be, at today's average residential electricity cost, sufficient to power over 9,800 homes each year. We recognize that while setbacks can be used in many situations, they are not appropriate for facilities that are continuously operated or those that house delicate equipment that depend on constant temperatures. However, during the course of our audit officials at four of the sites included in our review told us that they recognized the utility of using setbacks for most facilities. At two sites, implementation efforts began almost immediately after we briefed officials on our findings. We also noted that Department Headquarters facilities used setbacks in offices and many common areas. With over 9,000 buildings in its inventory, the consistent use of setbacks can help the Department significantly reduce its energy consumption and, as noted above, achieve substantial cost savings. Actions related to setbacks that officials began after we initiated our audit are noteworthy and should, if fully implemented, help further reduce energy consumption. However, additional action at sites across the complex is necessary to maximize energy efficient operations and to establish the Department as the leader in this effort in all of the Federal sector.

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  • Report No.: DOE/IG-0817
  • Grant Number: None
  • DOI: 10.2172/961746 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 961746
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc932599

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is the Department of Energy (DOE) office that collects, preserves, and disseminates DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D) results that are the outcomes of R&D projects or other funded activities at DOE labs and facilities nationwide and grantees at universities and other institutions.

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  • July 1, 2009

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Nov. 13, 2016, 7:26 p.m.

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  • Oct. 24, 2017, 3:42 p.m.

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Audit Report on "The Department of Energy's Opportunity for Energy Savings Through the Use of Setbacks in its Facilities", report, July 1, 2009; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc932599/: accessed December 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.