Energy experts converge for annual energy efficiency workshop

Huntsville Center public Affairs
Published July 11, 2024
People sitiing at a table viewing a MS Teams screen.

Mary Sotos, Federal Energy Management Program director, provides a virtual brief for attendees at the Resource Efficiency Manager workshop at the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, June 26. More than 100 REMs attended the workshop to enhance their professional development as contracted subject matter experts charged with identifying projects and practices to reduce energy and water costs for a wide-range of federal customers.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Resource efficiency managers (REM) from across the globe participated in the 2024 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Resource Efficiency Manager (REM) program’s workshop June 25-27 at the U.S. Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville’s facility at Redstone Arsenal.

John Trudell, Huntsville Center Resource Efficiency Manager (REM) program manager and workshop coordinator, said more than 80 attended the workshop in person and more than 30 attended virtually.

The goal of the REM program is to improve federal energy programs by employing contracted subject matter experts to identifying projects and practices to reduce energy and water costs.

Trudell said the annual workshop ensures continuous professional development and focused training on state-of-the-art energy programs and initiatives while leveraging Huntsville Center reach-back capabilities through the Center’s energy experts.

This year’s workshop emphasized the benefits of collaboration between the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP)and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). 

Although most of the REMs attending the workshop are employed at Department of Defense (DOD) installations, the workshop allowed participants to realize a greater focus on multiple federal agencies working together enhances their abilities to achieve federal energy mandates, as the REM program also provides REMs to focus on energy efficiency support to other federal agencies, such as the Veterans Administration (VA) and Defense Health Agency (DHA).

Guest speaker Mary Sotos, FEMP director, said with more than 350,000 energy-utilizing buildings and 600,000 vehicles, the federal government is the nation’s largest energy consumer.

“It’s so important that we collaborate,” Sotos said.

She said energy used in buildings and facilities represents about 40% of the total site-delivered energy use of the federal government, with vehicle and equipment energy use accounting for the rest.

“I think it was enlightening for attendees to hear from her (Sotos) regarding how USACE and FEMP partnerships are driving down the federal government’s energy costs through the government-wide adoption of performance contracting processes,” Trudell said.

Other keynote speakers at the workshop included Christine Ploschke, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment director, and Matthew Haupt, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command-Energy (NAVFAC) director.

Haupt said the Navy has bolstered energy efficiency with the REM program rewarding its installations with energy savings.

The REM program currently has four contracts with the Navy supporting Navy Atlantic, Navy Pacific, Navy Far East and Navy Guam. Currently, there are 21 REMs providing their expertise in identifying infrastructure energy improvements.

Erika Bartlett, REM program’s Navy project manager, said the 21 REMs are assisting Navy energy managers by increase energy awareness, collecting data for reporting site energy use and management, and supporting energy programs in the achievement of energy goals and mandates for energy use reduction as well as providing energy security, and resiliency through sustainable and renewable resources.

Trudell said he believes the REM program’s growth throughout the DOD and federal government is a prime example of how the FEMP-USACE partnership is succeeding.

“Our REMs are proving their expertise is vital for developing site energy and water plans that achieve energy efficiency, reduction, security, and resiliency through sustainable and renewable resources,” Trudell said.

An example of REM success is monthly electric sales rate calculations developed by Ted Robinson, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii (USAG-HI) REM. With more than 20 sites spread out across Oahu and Hawaii Islands, USAG-HI is unique and remote.  Its geographic location means no access to natural gas or any inter-state electric or gas distribution systems. This creates unique challenges for electric energy production and cost management.

With a diligent eye on the energy consumption, Robinson performs monthly electric sales rate calculations for Oahu, Hawaii Island, and six installations with Residential Communities Initiative (RCI) housing.  Individual installation rates for RCI housing provide the housing contractor with site-specific pricing data so they can evaluate the economics of various energy saving technologies or systems. 

While annual sales rates are more common among installations, monthly rate calculations provide USAG-HI with a more accurate cost recapture for customers on their installations, Robinson said.

He said the advantage for customers is a reimbursable electric rate which changes gradually on a real-time basis, avoiding the potentially large rate swings associated with annual rate calculations.

Robinson cited FY22 electric costs in Hawaii rising over 50%.  Using monthly sales rate calculations, he said the garrison collected over $16 million dollars more than if fixed sales rate were used throughout the fiscal year.   

“While calculating monthly electric sales rates is more time intensive, it ensures full cost recovery for the garrison and accurate current costs for installation customers,” Robinson said.