News Brief

Biden Calls for Electrification to Decarbonize Federal Buildings

A federal building performance standard addresses existing buildings, while DOE is targeting new construction.

 A rectangular glass building with an eagle crest above the door, lit up with blue light at night with traffic going by in front.

Most federal buildings, from offices to military housing, will need to be electrified to meet new greenhouse gas emission rules.

Photo: Mack Male. License: CC BY-SA 2.0.
Describing the U.S. government as “the country’s single largest energy consumer and building manager,” the White House has announced two programs aimed at decarbonizing the federal building portfolio. One covers existing building operations, and the other effectively requires electrification of new construction and major renovations.

The new federal building performance standard (BPS) for existing buildings takes inspiration from BPS legislation like New York City’s Local Law 97, Washington, D.C.’s Building Energy Performance Standard, and Colorado’s Energy Performance for Buildings Law (see a full list here). But in its details, the federal standard has little in common with BPS laws around the country.

For starters, other jurisdictions legislate all buildings, including privately owned ones, while the federal BPS applies only to government buildings. Other jurisdictions will impose penalties on building owners that don’t comply with a BPS, but obviously the government will not be fining itself for not meeting its targets. Although the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and its Office of Management and Budget will oversee each agency’s progress, any consequences of non-compliance are not currently documented.

Additionally, most of the existing standards around the U.S. regulate energy performance, not greenhouse gas emissions; the NYC law, which caps carbon, is an exception. In contrast to most of the others, the federal BPS calls for elimination of scope 1 emissions—direct emissions from burning fossil gas and other fuels onsite for space heating, cooking, and other uses—in 30% of each federal agency’s building space by 2030.

This will require replacing equipment and appliances with heat pumps, induction stoves, and other electric technologies. The BPS does not limit scope 2 emissions, which come from purchased electricity, but sweeping decarbonization measures have already called for 100% carbon-free power purchases by 2030. In fact, the new BPS was part of that initial announcement, which called for net-zero-carbon operations across the federal portfolio by 2045. Demanding 30% by 2030 is the first step in that direction.

The second part of the White House announcement addressed new construction and major renovations. A proposed Department of Energy (DOE) rule would require all covered federal buildings—everything from offices to military housing—to reduce scope 1 emissions so drastically that it would be extremely difficult for agencies to comply without focusing on electrification. The rule would require a 90% reduction in scope 1 emissions from a 2003 baseline by 2025.

The federal building portfolio is responsible for 25% of the government’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to DOE.

More on federal government climate action

Biden Orders Carbon-Neutral Federal Government by 2050

Buy Clean: Federal Funds to Have Low-carbon Strings Attached

Feds Introduce Decarbonization Specs for Government Projects

Building Carbon Caps to Scale Up with New Coalition

A Boatload of Building-Related Incentives in Inflation Reduction Act

For more information:

White House


Published February 6, 2023

Melton, P. (2023, January 18). Biden Calls for Electrification to Decarbonize Federal Buildings. Retrieved from

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