Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Making Sustainability "Business as Usual"

March 21, 2014

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David Morin, Energy Manager for Laughlin Air Force Base, discusses the base-wide xeriscape project with his colleagues. The design incorporates native turf and includes advanced scheduling and metering.

In large organizations like the federal government, there is great potential to create long term, large scale reductions in energy use.  Yet creating this institutional level change can be daunting.

To help foster energy change within an organization, the Energy Department’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides an inside track in developing technical and financial solutions to help federal agencies improve the energy efficiency of their operations. Additionally, FEMP can help agencies identify institutional change strategies to address non-technological, non-economic factors such as the roles of staff and leadership, formal rules, or unspoken norms that are often overlooked but key to sustainable change.

A KC-135 crew of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing meets to mission plan for their flight.

While advanced technologies are increasingly effective at reducing energy and resource intensity in buildings and facilities, optimal results cannot occur unless we take into account the role people play in energy use, at the individual and organizational levels. FEMP’s Institutional Change program helps close gaps between potential energy savings and actual performance. The program fully-integrates technology, policy and behavior to make new sustainability practices become “business as usual” at an agency.

Together, these three factors can create a more effective energy management program:

  • Technology provides a means to reduce energy use;
  • Policy provides guidance for goals and directives; and
  • Individual and organizational behaviors ultimately determine the extent to which sustainability goals are achieved.

Understanding their relationship to each other and the actions needed to align them and to create a significant, lasting difference is the essence of institutional change.

Recently, FEMP interviewed Federal Energy and Water Management Award Winners to gauge what resources, organizational conditions, and motivational factors influenced the winners to undertake their projects and realize energy savings. The follow-up to this study will be a report analyzing the role institutional and individual behaviors played in achieving sustainability goals and how other programs can foster institutional change throughout the federal government.

Visit FEMP’s Institutional Change website to learn more about important services, tools, and expertise we provide to help federal agencies achieve their energy management goals.