Civilian and military agencies of the U.S. Federal governments reported the lowest energy use since 1975, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), which is a part of the U.S. Department of Energy. In the fiscal year of 2013, the most recent year in accounting, energy use fell to 0.96 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) down from above 1.5 quadrillion Btu when reporting began.
There are several trends that have contributed to the new low in energy consumption, which includes liquid fuel used for airplanes and vehicles, and for natural gas and electricity used by buildings.
First, the federal government has reduced its total number of buildings domestically and abroad. But there has also been a move to improve building efficiency since 2007, when Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act. “A lot of the decline was due to a reduction in energy intensity—the energy consumption per square foot,” Rebecca George, an analyst for EIA, told the International Business Times. In fact, energy consumption per square foot has dropped by 21 percent since 2003.
The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest energy user in the federal government, consuming 78 percent of the energy used by all departments in 2013.
Across departments, vehicles account for 61.8 percent of all energy use. According to the EIA, jet fuel is the most-used energy type, accounting for 44.2 percent. Since 2011, there has been a 19 percent drop in vehicles and equipment use—largely due to a lower consumption of jet fuel by the U.S. Air Force. It’s worth noting that these energy savings don’t necessarily mean lower costs for the government, as oil prices have trended upwards over the past decade. It remains to be seen if the more recent drop in crude oil prices will affect fuel use and spending.
The Obama administration has continued to set requirements for energy efficiency for federal government facilities, particularly as part of climate change initiatives. Obama’s 2013 Climate Action Plan set a target for federal agencies to get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Renewables accounted for 9.2 percent of federal energy use in 2013.