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Energy Dept. Buildings Waste Energy

By Associated Press, Associated Press - July 24, 2009

The Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. (Getty)

You'd think the Energy Department would be good about saving on energy consumption, but a new internal audit suggests it has wasted millions of dollars on unnecessary energy costs that could have been avoided if temperature controls in certain facilities functioned properly.

The department spent approximately $300 million to cool and heat its 9,000 facilities nationwide in 2008, but could have saved at least $11.5 million each year if it fixed equipment that reduces the use of heating or air conditioning during non-work hours, according to a departmental inspector general report released earlier this week.

The report noted that the department is "designated to lead the country to energy efficiency and it has both an opportunity and responsibility to provide direction for smart, efficient energy management," but has "not always taken all necessary steps to advance the department's energy leadership role."

Auditors visited four of the department's major campuses that contain several buildings each: Washington headquarters; the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M., and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash.

The Washington headquarters regularly uses temperature control equipment in most offices and common areas. In other buildings at other facilities, however, temperature setback controls had either never been used or were broken. Investigators also found the department does not always require the use of temperature equipment in building lease agreements, a potentially expensive mistake as it continues to use more leased space.

In two buildings leased by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, neither the building's operators nor laboratory staff knew how to use the temperature controls. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory's temperature equipment broke last year and has not been fixed because officials plan to initiate a new energy consumption plan in the near future.

Investigators acknowledge that temperature controls cannot be used in facilities that house temperature-sensitive equipment or that are used for most of the day. At least two buildings visited by investigators adjusted their temperature controls after learning about the audit's findings. This latest report is consistent with two other recent audits on the department's energy usage that have raised similar concerns.

By washingtonpost.com Editors |  July 23, 2009; 12:26 PM ET Categories:  Agencies and Departments , Oversight Share This:  E-Mail | Technorati | Del.icio.us | Digg | Stumble Previous: Eye Opener: No Firefox at Foggy Bottom Next: Census Bureau Does More Than Count People

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