FEMP Deploys Teams in Response to Natural Gas Concerns (article from FEMP Focus Special Issue 2006)

February 27, 2006

Photo of a FEMP representative performing an on-site inspection at the Solar Energy Research Facility
FEMP representative performs an on-site inspection at the Solar Energy Research Facility.

Demand for natural gas in the United States has risen steadily over the past decade, fueled in part by increased consumption of natural gas for electricity generation. At the same time, domestic production has declined since its peak in the mid-1970s, and recent efforts to encourage drilling activity have had limited results. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita led to natural gas being "shut in," which has contributed to dramatic price increases. Monthly average spot prices for natural gas supplies this coming winter are currently fluctuating around $12 to 13 per million Btu—about twice last year's average.

Developing significant new supplies of natural gas will take time but, in the short term, reducing demand through energy conservation, efficiency, load management, and fuel switching can help hold down the price of natural gas. Actions taken now to improve efficiency and minimize consumption and dependence on natural gas will also be critical in buffering agency budgets from price volatility.

Energy Savings Expert Teams (ESET) Response

The Federal Energy Management Program continues to lead in promoting the efficient use of energy resources through targeted energy conservation, efficiency, and load management at federal facilities. FEMP is offering energy savings expert teams (ESET) assessments (formerly called ALERT [Assessment of Load and Energy Reduction Techniques]) for federal facilities as part of a broad strategy to reduce natural gas consumption at these facilities. An increase of $1 per million Btu in natural gas prices increases energy costs to the government by $130 million. Containment of energy costs continues to be a high priority as agency budgets reflect the impact of international and homeland security efforts. ESET assessments will provide opportunities for federal facilities to significantly reduce energy use and to cut energy costs.

Criteria for Site Selection

In FY 2006 FEMP has assessed 28 new sites thus far. (See page 22 for a listing of the completed sites.) The cost to FEMP per site assessment is expected to range between $15,000 and $35,000. Working with agency personnel and the Department of Energy Regional Offices, the following criteria were used to identify ESET candidates:

  • Active project champion and management support
  • Resources to participate in the assessment and implement the recommendations
  • Significant natural gas consumption at the site
  • Significant potential savings (i.e., preference for large facilities and older systems)
  • Utility bills paid by agency
  • Ability to share costs. Cost-sharing contribution by the agency may be in the form of in-kind services, funding for a support contractor to participate in the ESET assessment, or support for FEMP ESET replication efforts by organizing and funding an agency ESET workshop to learn the techniques.

ESET Assessment Procedure

  • Agencies submit request to DOE
  • Sites are selected based on ESET screening criteria
  • Two interviews before the site visit by ESET team: Initial interview and completion of an in-depth questionnaire on site buildings, equipment, and energy use
  • Site visit includes kick-off meeting, brief site/facility tour and measure targeting, investigation of targeted measures and possible implementation of select opportunities, follow-up discussion, and consensus on action items
  • Draft report issued for rapid site review and written feedback
  • Issuance of final report incorporating site feedback
  • Site implements remaining recommendations
  • Follow-up by DOE Regional Office to gather information on implementation status for FEMP's report.

Getting Help

For more information on ESET assessments, contact Ab Ream, FEMP, 202-586-7230.