JAMES M. SULLIVAN
DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF ASSET ENTERPRISE MANAGEMENT
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
SEPTEMBER 30, 2009
September 30, 2009
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss with you the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Green Management Program and our commitment to energy efficiencies and cleaner energy – and to building lasting change that reduces VA’s impact on the environment.
I am accompanied here today by Ed Bradley, Director of Investment and Enterprise Development Service, Office of Asset Enterprise Management; and John Stenger, Director of Healthcare Engineering; and John Beatty, Director of Safety, Health, Environmental and Emergency Management; both from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
As the lead for VA’s “Green Team,” I will present our Green Management Program and identify the four major program areas; scope of responsibilities; recent accomplishments; investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy; energy savings; and VA’s path toward reducing its carbon footprint as an agency while enabling and supporting VA’s primary mission – to provide the highest quality care and services to our Veterans and their families.
Green Management Program – Overview
VA is making great strides in conserving resources at its facilities across the country by proactively managing its energy, environmental, fleet and sustainable building efforts. These four program areas are the cornerstone of our integrated Green Management Program. Working collaboratively with VA’s administrations - VHA, Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and National Cemetery Administration (NCA) and staff offices - we have, for example, reduced the rate at which VA uses energy in buildings by 11 percent since 2003. We have created facility energy engineer positions to serve all facilities. We have exceeded alternative fuel vehicle acquisition mandates and installed pumps to dispense alternative fuels at 10 fueling stations, with many more planned and on the way. Six VA facilities have earned certification as green buildings, and others are in the evaluation process right now.
We are dedicating over $400 million in Recovery Act funds to make facilities more energy efficient and to add solar, wind and other renewable energy capacity. Activities such as these that help “green” our world are the right thing to do. They improve our well-being and ensure a healthy planet for the generations to come. Reducing our energy and environmental footprint is not only the right thing for VA to do, it is the smart thing. Each action we take to reduce, reuse and recycle energy, water and other resources has the potential to generate cost savings that VA can redirect to its core mission of caring for our Nation’s Veterans and their families.
Our agency has established a tangible goal for each and every employee to integrate energy and environmental considerations into their day-to-day activities and into all VA operations and long-term planning processes.
Energy and Water Management
Since 2003, VA has been successful in setting goals that exceed mandates; benchmarking energy consumption at its facilities; improving energy efficiency; and investing in renewable energy generation to reduce its fossil fuel consumption.
Energy Project Investment Process
VA instituted a rigorous centralized energy project identification, evaluation and investment process in 2003. The process begins with regionally coordinated facility energy assessments to identify and evaluate potential energy and water conservation measures. Once measures are identified, facility and regional decision-makers select measures to implement and decide on funding methods, which include appropriations and alternative financing such as energy savings performance contracts. VA’s National Energy Business Center, established in 2005, provides the Department with all energy-related contracting services, from energy assessments to performance contracting.
Technologies & Projects
The VA’s Green Management Program has focused especially on identifying facilities with high potential for renewable energy projects and pursuing implementation of those projects. VA is making use of the funds provided through the Recovery Act to fund design-build contracts and feasibility studies at existing medical centers and national cemeteries across the country. Additionally, VA is conducting renewable energy feasibility studies for all new construction projects.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are one technology that VA is deploying. In 2008, we installed solar PV systems at 2 medical centers and we expect to award design-build contracts for 19 additional projects this year. With the design-build process, contractors evaluate VA needs and propose the technologies and systems best suited to filling those needs, including both thin film and crystalline technologies. VA is actively pursuing wind and geothermal systems as well, with contracts for two wind and four geothermal systems to be awarded this year.
Cogeneration (also known as combined heat and power) is an energy efficient system especially suited to meeting medical center energy needs. Such systems simultaneously produce electricity and steam, hot water or chilled water. The cogeneration plant at the Mountain Home VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Johnson City, Tennessee, uses waste methane gas that is produced from and processed at a local municipal landfill. The cogeneration system at the San Diego VAMC won a Department of Energy (DOE) award in 2006 and features a natural gas turbine with very low emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx). VA awarded 12 contracts this past August for feasibility studies of renewably fueled cogeneration at 38 sites in 15 states and Puerto Rico.
VA is aggressively implementing advanced metering systems to measure consumption at the building level to help identify problems and opportunities to improve energy performance. We are currently completing installation of electric and non-electric meters in Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) 10 and 22, awarding a contract this fiscal year to install electric meters in all other VA facilities, and funding non-electric metering for all VA facilities through the Recovery Act.
VA’s medical facilities must use water relatively intensely to meet stringent patient care requirements. At VA’s national cemeteries, water is essential for maintaining appropriate national shrine environments. VA was able to reduce its water consumption intensity by 3 percent between FY 2007 and FY 2008 while also meeting these mission-related requirements, exceeding the mandated reduction by 50 percent. The new VBA Regional Office in Reno, Nevada, is certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver and uses water-wise landscaping and other water management techniques such as waterless urinals to reduced water consumption by more than 30 percent. NCA has been taking steps to reduce water consumption while maintaining respect for our Veterans’ resting places. For example, at Fort Bliss National Cemetery (El Paso, Texas), NCA used water-wise landscaping with drought-resistant plants and installed drip-emitters for irrigation. Several VA facilities have won DOE awards for water management, and VA is actively pursuing additional opportunities.
As a Federal agency, VA is required to ensure that 15 percent of its building inventory incorporates sustainable practices by 2015 in accordance with the mandates of Executive Order 13423, Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management (2007). The Green Building Initiative, Inc. (GBI) recently awarded Green Globes sustainable building certifications to three VAMCs. Additionally, one VHA and two VBA facilities have (LEED) certifications. The new VBA Regional Office in Boise, Idaho, which will be activated in October 2009 uses geothermal energy and is in process for LEED Gold certification. Moreover, all new construction and major renovation projects are being designed to meet sustainable building principles.
There are 19 additional VA facilities that expect to obtain third-party green building certification by the end of 2009. Once certifications are obtained, VA’s sustainable building square footage will reach 12 percent of total applicable square footage in inventory.
We recognize the importance of building our new facilities to be as sustainable as possible, and also maintaining that status through the use of the Energy Star building rating system. VA has been an active participant in the Energy Star buildings program since 2003. Twenty-five VAMCs have received an Energy Star label, representing nearly 30 percent of all Energy Star labeled medical centers in the United States. These labels signify that the facility is among the top 25 percent of comparable facilities in the nation in terms of energy performance. We have also established Energy Star ratings for all of our medical centers and for two VBA regional offices.
The nation’s environmental statutes impact the way VA facilities are maintained and operated. Protecting the environment is critical to ensuring the health of Veterans, employees and the public, as well as the communities that VA serves. VA is committed to continually improving its environmental programs to meet Federal, state and local environmental requirements and reduce risks that VA facility operations may pose to the environment. VHA is responsible for providing quality healthcare to our nation’s Veterans at more than 150 VAMCs, 875 community-based outpatient clinics and other healthcare facilities.
Environmental Management Systems
The Green Environmental Management System (GEMS) is the foundation for environmental management in VA’s medical centers, focused on environmental performance through a process of continuous improvement. By 2008, GEMS were in place at all VAMCs with dedicated GEMS coordinators serving at 99 percent of medical facilities. In 2009, VHA began presenting detailed GEMS training courses to improve understanding of statutes and regulations. NCA is expanding the number of cemeteries covered by environmental management systems significantly using Recovery Act funding, and will soon be adding coordinators as well.
Buying green products is consistent with VA’s mission to provide our nation’s Veterans with a healthy environment. VA is proud of Fort Custer National Cemetery’s (Augusta, Michigan) prestigious 2007 White House Closing the Circle Award for testing and using biobased products in cemetery grounds maintenance equipment. Between September 2007 and June 2009, 100 percent of the desktop computers that VA leased were Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool gold or silver products, signifying relatively low environmental impact.
VA is preparing to implement computer power management nationwide. This project is challenging not only because of VA’s size and widely dispersed facilities, but because of its impact on other information technology requirements, all of which need to be fully integrated. As implementation proceeds, VA will be developing a strategy for activating power management in nonmission-critical equipment.
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction
Last year VA participated in developing protocol for the public sector to inventory GHG emissions and has joined a new Federal interagency initiative to “road test” the protocol. VA is working with the Federal Energy Management Program office at DOE in their GHG reduction leadership role. We have established an advisory group within VA to shape VA’s strategy for establishing a baseline inventory and achieving VA’s initial target of 30 percent reduction by FY 2020 from a FY 2008 baseline.
VA is taking steps to curb petroleum use and increase the use of alternative fuels. We are on track to exceed our fleet management goals of reducing petroleum consumption 2 percent annually and increasing our alternative fuel consumption 10 percent annually. To support our growing alternative fuel vehicle fleet, 25 facilities plan to add alternative fueling capacity, and we are completing a study to identify optimal locations for constructing up to 35 additional stations with the $7 million in minor construction program funding we received for this purpose. Also, VA is placing electric vehicles on VAMC campuses and national cemeteries.
Education & Outreach
VA has recently embarked on a new initiative called the “Green Routine.” This initiative is an outreach and awareness campaign created with the support of Secretary Shinseki. The outreach will provide the necessary information and resources to educate all employees on how they can take advantage of the daily opportunities within their grasp to contribute personally to creating a healthier environment. Deliverables include an informational video; a Web page; an instructional guide to going green in the workplace; and a facilities action plan. Our agency is a leader among other Federal agencies in reducing its energy consumption and environmental impact, but now we are educating and reaching out to our 288,000 employees nationwide to help us continue on the right path – the green path.
Over the past several years, VA has laid a solid foundation of leadership in green management at its facilities by implementing environmental management systems and hiring energy managers and environmental coordinators. We are building lasting change by constructing sustainable new facilities with energy efficiency and renewable energy features. Reducing environmental impacts and increasing energy efficiency are a top priority of the Green Management Program while we maintain our focus on our core mission of caring for our Nation’s Veterans and their families. Thank you again for the opportunity to testify. My colleagues and I are prepared to answer your questions.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - 810 Vermont Avenue, NW - Washington, DC 20420
Reviewed/Updated Date: November 10, 2009