DOE fumbled it owns conservation plan, wasting millions in potential energy savings

The Energy Department is the government’s expert when it comes to conservation, so it mystified auditors when they discovered that an effort to make the department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) more energy efficient was missing its goals by millions of dollars.    

ADVERTISEMENT
The answer to how the NNSA’s effort went awry was found in the agency’s management of its contractor, records show.

The Energy Department’s Office of Inspector General reports that the NNSA used Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) to reduce energy use at some of its sites, including the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex.

However, the agency failed to ensure that contractors carried out their service according to the terms of their agreement, leading to increased costs and missed goals, the inspector general reported.

For instance, equipment was installed incorrectly, upgrades were delayed and thermostats were set improperly — actions that undercut the intended conservation, the report said.

In the end, the mistakes resulted in $1.2 million in lost savings over the past four years and could cost as much as $8.8 million if corrective action isn't taken, the inspector general reported earlier this month.

“Energy savings measures in ESPCs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos) and Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12) did not always achieve the full energy savings under the contracts,” the inspector general reported earlier this month.

The NNSA agreed with the findings, but suggested the assessment was harsh.

“It is uncommon to achieve all of the potential savings due to various factors,” a spokesperson for the NNSA wrote in response to the report. “To only highlight the minor areas where sites have not achieved all the full ‘potential’ savings could be misleading.”