Federal Government Commits to Significantly Increasing Its Use of Clean Energy

Executive order encourages deployment of renewable and efficient technologies

Federal Government Commits to Significantly Increasing Its Use of Clean Energy

In a win for clean energy businesses, President Barack Obama last week signed an executive order to increase the U.S. government’s use of electric vehicles and renewable resources. This action will save taxpayers money and create jobs and businesses while reducing carbon pollution.

solarBrendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama tours the Energy Department’s solar array on March 19, 2015, after signing an executive order expanding federal use of clean energy technologies.

With more than 360,000 facilities, 650,000 fleet vehicles, and $445 billion spent each year on electricity and fuel, the federal government is the country’s largest energy consumer. By setting goals to obtain 25 percent of its electricity and heat from clean power sources by 2025, cut energy use in government buildings by 2.5 percent in each of the next 10 years, and expand the use of efficient vehicles in its fleet, the federal government could save as much as $18 billion in utility and fuel costs. This effort will also expand the clean economy and set an important example for the private sector. Some of the country’s largest corporations are stepping forward with ambitious sustainability goals, making additional commitments to efficiency, renewables, water conservation, and pollution reduction.

This new [executive order] will definitely drive change in both public- and private-sector contracting. Now that the scorecard has been published—and the expectation has been set going forward for all federal contractors—we anticipate that federal purchasing decisions will be directed to low-carbon suppliers, which will drive changes in the marketplace.Doug Huxley, Practice Director, Greenhouse Gas Management Program with CH2M HILL, a consulting firm focusing on energy, water, environment and infrastructure 

Compliance with the executive order includes either contracting for clean energy, producing it on site, obtaining renewable credits, or installing efficient technologies such as combined heat and power. Fleets will be modernized to use electricity or technologies that lower emissions and allow vehicles to travel farther with less fuel. Planning and procurement efforts will consider resiliency to ensure continuous government operation even in the face of extreme weather or other events that could lead to grid outages. Finally, to encourage greenhouse gas reductions throughout the federal supply chain, the government has created a publicly available scorecard system that tracks emissions for major commercial suppliers and contractors.

The executive order presents an important opportunity for clean energy businesses both large and small. Many larger federal contractors are likely to look to smaller companies for goods and services to fulfill work orders related to these goals. Opportunities will extend to the broader private sector as more companies follow the government’s lead, retrofitting their offices and manufacturing facilities with clean energy and efficiency technology.

In committing to these steps over the next decade, the government is simultaneously encouraging the private marketplace, spurring energy innovation, saving taxpayer dollars, and reducing pollution.

Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies


Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.