NREL Creates Blueprint To Help Expand Deployment of Grid-Interactive Efficient Building Technologies in Federal Performance Contracts

NREL Helped GSA Lay Foundations for Expanded Deployment of Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings in Federal Energy Performance Contracting Projects

July 14, 2021

Aerial view of a federal building with a solar canopy-covered parking lot.
GSA leveraged a $45 million energy savings performance contract to build a 1,808-kW solar canopy on the north parking lot of the New Carrollton Federal Building in Silver Spring, Maryland. Photo from GSA

Who do you call on to plan for building energy savings and resiliency when you manage the largest portfolio of commercial office space in the country? For the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the right partners included the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Integrated Energy Solutions and Commercial Buildings Research teams.

NREL researchers Jesse Dean, Phil Voss, Douglas Gagne, Rois Langner, and Deb Vásquez have crafted the Blueprint for Integrating Grid-Interactive Efficient Building Technologies into U.S. General Services Administration Performance Contracts, a guide to using federal energy performance contracting to transform GSA buildings into tomorrow's energy-efficient, grid-interactive facilities.

GEB It to Me Straight: What's a Grid-Interactive Efficient Building?
A grid-interactive efficient building (GEB) is an energy-efficient building that interacts with the electric grid, using smart technologies to reduce, shed, shift, modulate, or generate electricity load as needed. A GEB optimizes energy use in a continuous and integrated way for demand flexibility, grid services, occupant needs and preferences, cost reductions, and increased resilience.

With this blueprint, GSA seeks to expand deployment of its innovative National Deep Energy Retrofit program, where feasible, by incorporating demand flexibility and grid integration strategies that may result in additional energy and cost savings, increased resilience, and further greenhouse gas reductions.

The blueprint offers practical guidance and tools to reduce overall energy use and cost, without impacting occupant comfort or productivity, using energy performance contracts such as energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs), ESPC ENABLE (a streamlined federal procurement process for smaller projects), and utility energy service contracts (UESCs). These are useful means of financing projects for government customers who do not benefit from the energy efficiency and renewable energy tax incentives that private-sector customers may access. Instead, some or all of the energy upgrades are paid for by contractors or the utility, with the costs recouped through energy savings over the lifetime of the project.

GSA and other governmental bodies and agencies can use the blueprint to better understand the advantages and nuances of various approaches to integrating GEB measures within performance contracts.

Building GSA's Future With Performance Contracting

Aerial view of a federal building in lower Manhattan with energy efficiency upgrades.
The Ted Weiss Federal Building is a 30-story GSA-owned building in lower Manhattan. Energy conservation measures funded by UESC save the facility $256,000 in annual energy costs and 64,872 Btu per gross square foot. Photo from GSA

GSA is putting performance contracting to work implementing GEB at multiple sites. GSA won multiple Department of Energy (DOE) grants to help co-fund solar-plus-battery-storage projects at six Land Port of Entry facilities located in Texas and New Mexico, and at four courthouses and a parking garage in Oklahoma. Through its Green Proving Ground program, GSA is also preparing to test the effectiveness of various GEB technologies at other facilities in its portfolio.

NREL researchers are bullish about future growth opportunities for GEBs in the federal sector.

"Grid-interactive efficient building technologies will serve as an integral part of the ever-evolving energy landscape over the next few decades," said Sheila Hayter, NREL laboratory program manager for DOE's Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). "The NREL team is very grateful for the opportunity to assist GSA with developing this blueprint. The report draws upon NREL's history of supporting FEMP's performance contracting program, and NREL's smart buildings and grid-interactive efficient buildings technical expertise. NREL is excited to be helping GSA continue to lead the federal sector in developing and applying advanced building technologies and procurement solutions."

Read the GSA press release, "GSA, NREL Publish Blueprint for Expanding Deployment of Grid-interactive Efficient Buildings in the Federal Portfolio."

Learn about the DOE Building Technologies Office Grid-interactive Efficient Buildings (GEB) Initiative.

FEMP assists federal agencies in developing and implementing innovative solutions using performance contracting. Learn about FEMP's energy and project procurement development services.

Learn more about NREL's Buildings Research Program and NREL's partnerships with federal agencies.