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For Federal Agency Customers

GSA — Your Partner in Utility Procurement

Procuring utility services becomes a simple, one-step process for Federal facility managers when they take advantage of the General Services Administration’s Utility Areawide Contract, a master blanket contract for public utility services. The GSA Areawide Contract spells out the general terms and conditions of service, contains all applicable Federal clauses, and provides instructions for Federal agency use. It’s the easiest standardized procedure for ordering utility services.  The GSA Areawide Contract is administered by the GSA/PBS/Energy Division. This division provides leadership within the Federal government in developing and administering contract vehicles that
enable agencies to procure utility services at the lowest cost and the greatest value.

The Energy Division is your best resource for assistance in procuring energy and energy services. The mission of the Energy Division is to reduce utility costs by promoting optimal energy use while protecting the environment and ensuring a quality workspace for Federal workers. The Energy Division provides guidance to agencies on responsible asset management through energy and water conservation projects and the purchase of cost effective utilities.

GSA Areawide Contract - An Energizing Option

The GSA Areawide Contract is an agreement between GSA and a utility for a range of utility services for periods up to 10 years. GSA is the only agency authorized to sign an Areawide Contract, but once signed, the agreement can be used by any Federal agency in that particular utility service territory.

Federal Agencies use the contract by signing an Authorization that details the utility service or project to be provided under the Areawide Contract. The Areawide Contract encompasses the general terms and conditions of the agreement, while the Authorization details the specific services to be provided to the Ordering Agency.

The GSA Areawide Contract is unique because the contract terms and conditions have already been established between the Government and the utility, making it easier to use than most other contracting mechanisms. The Ordering Agency is assured that all applicable FAR clauses have been included in the contract, as well as language requiring a subcontracting plan for small, minority, women-owned and HUBzone Small Business Concerns.

The GSA Areawide Contract is also flexible; the Ordering Agency can negotiate special rates and satisfy any unusual utility requirements by making a simple addendum to the Authorization form.

Federal Agencies can use the Areawide Contract to procure a variety of utility services, from straightforward electric, gas, and steam service to energy and water management projects. The Areawide Contract can also be used to finance energy efficiency projects with guaranteed savings. In short, if your local utility services provider offers
it, your Agency can procure it quickly and easily using the GSA Areawide Contract.

Why Use the GSA Areawide Contract?

There are many benefits to utilizing the GSA Areawide Contract to fulfill your facility’s utility and energy management services needs:

  1. Ease of use - The contract language, provisions, and terms and conditions are already in place, leaving just a one-page Authorization for the Ordering Agency to complete. The GSA Areawide Contract is one of the easiest and quickest ways to procure energy, water, and demand-side management services.
  2. Flexibility - Nearly every type of energy and energy management service is available through the GSA Areawide Contract. An Ordering Agency can use as many Authorizations as it needs to take advantage of the myriad of services its utility might offer. In addition, because the Ordering Agency can specify special requirements and additional instructions, renewable power and other earth friendly approaches to energy supply and management can be provided by the utility.
  3. Established track record – The Energy Division has currently has about 100 Areawide Contracts with utilities across the nation, and many Agencies’ already have a history of working this procurement tool. The GSA Areawide Contract has a proven track record, having facilitated successful partnerships between Agency’s and utilities for years.
  4. Financing - The Energy Division provides an alternative method for financing energy management projects, similar to an energy savings performance contract.
  5. Help is just a phone call away...or a mouse click.  The Energy Division is available to provide technical and contract management and administration information and assistance whenever you require it.

The GSA Areawide Contract can fit easily into an Agency’s deregulation plan, because utilizing the services of the Contracting Utility under the GSA Areawide Contract does not in any way preclude an Agency from using the services of an energy service company or another utility. For instance, the Ordering Agency might procure its electric power from the Contracting Utility, but might also procure water management services from an energy services company.

Helpful Terms to Know

Areawide Contract - A master contract entered into between the Government and a utility service supplier to cover the utility service acquisitions of all Federal agencies in the franchised certified service territory from the particular utility service provider for a period not to exceed 10 years.

Agency - Any Federal department, agency, or independent establishment in the executive branch of the Government, any establishment in the legislative or judicial branches of the Federal Government, or any wholly/mixed ownership government corporation.

Ordering Agency - Any Agency that enters into a bilaterally executed Authorization for procurement of utility services under this Areawide Contract.

Contractor - Any provider of utility services that has entered into an Areawide Contract with the Government. Utility - A public- or investor-owned utility company that falls under the regulation of a state Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

Authorization - An order form used to acquire services under an Areawide Contract.

Service - Any commodities, financial incentives, goods, and/or services generally available from the Contractor pursuant to its tariffs, rates, rules, regulations, riders, practices, or terms and conditions of services, as may be modified, amended, or supplemented by the Contractor and approved from time to time.

Energy Conservation Measure - Any specific service intended to provide energy savings and/or demand reduction in Federal facilities.

Connection Charge - A Contractor’s charge for facilities on either one or both sides of the Government’s delivery point which 1) facilities are required to make connections with the nearest point of supply, and 2) are installed, maintained, and operated by the Contractor, in accordance with the Contractor’s tariffs and the PUC’s rules and regulations.  

Scope of the Areawide Contract

Part 41 of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) requires agencies with annual spending over the simplified acquisition threshold to use a GSA Areawide Contract if one is available.  Exceptions are when service is available from another Federal agency or the Government benefits from obtaining services under a single-point contract.

The GSA Areawide Contract cannot be used when more than one utility company offers the same services in an area.  In this case, an agency should compete its service requirements and use a single-point contract. Also, the Areawide Contract is not for use by contractors doing business with Federal agencies.

Services Available through the Areawide Contract

There are seven Authorizations available to the Ordering Agency, making the GSA Areawide Contract a simple, one-step tool for procuring nearly any type of utility service available. The services covered by the seven Authorizations are described below:

- Electric Service, Change in Electric Service, or Disconnection of Electric Service - Includes connection/ change/disconnection; continuing electric service; demand-side management services; line extension, alteration, relocation, and/or reinforcement; and special facilities

-Electric Transmission Service, Change in Electric Transmission Service, or Disconnection of Electric Transmission Service - Includes connection/change/disconnection; continuing electric transmission service; line extension, alteration, relocation, and/or reinforcement; and special facilities

-Energy Management Services - Includes preliminary energy audit; energy conservation project (ECP) installation; ECP feasibility study; ECP engineering and design study; demand side management (DSM) projects

-Gas Transportation Service, Change in Gas Transportation Service, or Disconnection of Gas Transportation Service - Includes connection/change/disconnection; continuing gas transportation service; and line extension, alteration, relocation, and/or reinforcement

-Natural Gas Service, Change in Natural Gas Service, or Disconnection of Natural Gas Service - Includes connection/change/disconnection; continuing natural gas service; and line extension, alteration, relocation, and/or reinforcement

-Steam Service - Includes connection/change/disconnection; continuing steam service; demand side management work or conservation projects; line extension, alteration, relocation, and/or reinforcement; and special facilities

-Water Management Service - Includes connection/change/disconnection; continuing water service; demand side management work or conservation projects; line extension, alteration, relocation, and/or reinforcement; and special facilities

Changes in Service

The term of any Authorization is independent of the term of the GSA Areawide Contract; for example, while an Areawide Contract term may be 10 years, the Ordering Agency and utility may sign an Authorization for electric service for any period up to ten years, and may extend beyond the expiration of the Areawide Contract.  The Ordering Agency can change or terminate service with the utility by submitting another Authorization noting the change or termination.  As with all Authorizations, an Authorization to change or terminate service must be signed by the utility and Ordering Agency. The Ordering Agency must also provide a written Authorization to the Contracting Utility for any material changes proposed in the volume or characteristic of the utility services required.

There are several cases of changes in which effective Authorizations need not be amended. These include changes to: accounting or appropriation data; rates or other terms applicable to service classification under which the Agency receives service; terms of the Contracting Utility’s tariff; cost of purchased fuel; and the estimated annual cost of service.  During the term of the Areawide Contract, the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) may approve a change in rates for services covered by Authorizations. In this case, the Ordering Agency agrees to continue paying for the services rendered at the revised rates. However, the Contracting Utility must agree in the Areawide Contract that the service rates offered to the Ordering Agency will at no time exceed those charged to any other customer under the same service classification and receiving the same or comparable service under like conditions of use.

Billing and Payment

The Contracting Utility will bill for services rendered under the Authorization to the address specified by the Ordering Agency in the Authorization. Unless otherwise specified in the Authorization, bills are to be submitted in the original. Bills submitted by the Contracting Utility should include such data as required by the PUC to substantiate the bill, and other data requested by the Ordering Agency (and documented in the Authorization).
The Ordering Agency pays all bills for services rendered in accordance with applicable tariffs, rates, rules, regulations, riders, practices, and terms and conditions of service. Late payment charges are applicable. The Ordering Agency is entitled to any billing discounts, incentives or rebates offered to other customers of the same service classification under like conditions of use and service.  Payment will not be made in advance of services rendered (electricity, gas, water, etc.), unless required by the Contracting Utility’s tariff.  Payment may be required up-front for DSM projects.

Metering Equipment and Facilities
For electric and gas service procurement, metering equipment of standard manufacture to meter gas and electric is to be furnished, installed, calibrated, and maintained by the Utility at its expense unless otherwise stated in the Utility’s tariffs, rates, rules, regulations, riders, practices, or terms and conditions of service.  The Utility will read all meters monthly in accordance with the Utility’s tariffs and commission regulations. Upon installation, meters will be inspected and tested by the Utility at no cost to the Ordering Agency.  The Ordering Agency will provide, at its expense, mutually agreeable locations on its premises for the installation of meters and other equipment necessary to supply utility service. If the Ordering Agency in any way limits or restricts the Utility’s access, the Ordering Agency will not hold the Utility responsible for any damage or dangerous situations that result.

Liability and Access
The liability of the Utility to the Government for failure to supply services, for any interruptions in service, and for any irregular or defective service will be determined in accordance with the Utility’s tariff.  The Ordering Agency will provide access to the premises served at all reasonable times during the term of the GSA Areawide Contract, and its termination or expiration, for the purpose of reading meters, for making installations or repairs, or for removal of the Utility’s equipment.

Steps to Procuring Utility Services

One compelling benefit of the GSA Areawide Contract is that the terms and conditions have already been established by GSA and the Contracting Utility, reducing the amount of time required to negotiate with the utility and put a utility services contract into place. Once the decision to procure services using the Areawide Contract has been made, the steps to implementation are simple and straight forward.  However, some careful thought and analysis must still go into deciding when and how to utilize the Areawide Contract. This section will help get you started.

Making the Best Value Decision

Step 1 - Define Your Needs

Identify the objectives, barriers, and opportunities related to utility services at your facility. Consider such factors as mission support concerns, infrastructure needs, core capabilities, energy cost saving objectives, contract length, occupant needs, environmental issues, etc.

Step 2 - Review the Options

Review and understand legal, regulatory, and contractual requirements and alternatives. For instance, the FAR requires GSA Areawide Contract use by Agencies with annual spending over the simplified acquisition threshold if one is available. Exceptions are when service is available from another Federal agency or the Government benefits from obtaining services under a competitive single-point contract. On the other hand, Areawide Contracts should be competed when more than one utility company offers the same services in an area.

Step 3 - Identify the Best Value

Determine if using the GSA Areawide Contract is the best value.  The considerations listed below should be used to plot a decision flowchart. Because of its many benefits, the GSA Areawide Contract is often the best value choice for the Ordering Agency.  However, options with single-point contracts and energy savings performance contracts should also be explored. Consider the following factors when determining the best value contracting option:

- Location. An Areawide Contract can be utilized only within the service territory of a regulated utility company that offers such services; in other words, it is only a viable alternative for sites in locations in which there is a public utility willing and able to enter into a contract and perform the work. Restrictions may be placed on the utility by the state PUC regarding the services offered and cost associated with the project.

- Competition Requirements. The Areawide Contract is an established resource for procurement. Although the state PUC provides some oversight through its established program of regulatory review, Federal contracting officers are ultimately responsible for ensuring that price and technical proposals meet all necessary standards and requirements, including subcontracting plan requirements.

- Performance, Measurement & Verification, and Operation& Maintenance Needs. The Authorization for Energy Management Services does not require a guarantee of savings or annual measurement and verification, but these factors can be included if the Ordering Agency deems it necessary. Also, an Areawide Contract can include operations and maintenance responsibilities if the Ordering Agency requires it. Restrictions may be placed on the utility by the PUC regarding how the utility is structured and whether financing, guarantees, and operations and maintenance (O&M) services are available.  The Utility is not required under the Areawide Contract to provide guaranteed performance, measurement and verification (M&V), and O&M services. However, most utilities offer and actively market any or all of these options, and any Authorization can be modified to include these services.

- Agency Resource Requirements. If an Areawide Contract has already been established, contract documentation and billing requirements for the Ordering Agency are minimal. Areawide Contracts require the same level of technical evaluation of project scope and negotiation as other procurement approaches.

- Project Scope. The Areawide Contract process allows flexibility for the facility to either define the scope of the work in detail or invite the utility to propose an unconstrained, comprehensive project.

Step 4 - Utilizing the Areawide Contract

After completing the decision making process and determining that the GSA Areawide Contract is the most advantageous contracting mechanism for your facility and Agency, follow these steps to implementation of the project:

-Obtain the proper Authorization form from the Energy Division website: http://www.gsa.gov/energy, or by contacting the Public Utilities Team.

- Gather the necessary data required to complete the Authorization form. Data to be provided varies by Authorization, but includes address, point of delivery, terms of service, and any other terms and
conditions; in most cases, the Contracting Utility will provide assistance. Authorizations may also require estimated annual energy usage, estimated annual energy demand, estimated annual energy cost, etc.

- The Authorization form must be filled out completely and signed by a contracting officer of the Ordering Agency. The Authorization form is then sent to the Contracting Utility.

- An authorized representative from the Contracting Utility must also sign the Authorization form. Once signed by both parties, the Authorization form activates the existing Areawide Contract, and a formal, binding agreement has been made. A copy of the signed Authorization form should be forwarded to the Energy Division by the Ordering Agency.

Step 5 - Contract Administration

The Ordering Agency will assist in the day-to-day administration of the utility service being provided to it under any Authorization. Unless provided otherwise, all notices required to be provided to the Government (e.g., Authorization forms, etc.) under the Areawide Contract are to be sent to the Energy Division - (PMAA), General Services Administration, Washington, DC 20405.

The Utility will provide GSA with an annual report on performance in accordance with the approved subcontracting plan for small and small disadvantaged business concerns. The Utility is also to provide GSA with an annual report for the preceding calendar year that lists all Federal customers requiring service or change in service under the Areawide Contract.

Completing the Authorization Form

Because the Areawide Contract is negotiated between the General Services Administration and the Contracting Utility, the Ordering Agency is freed of much of the contracting and administration duties that normally accompany the procurement process. The Ordering Agency need only follow a simple process to utilize the Areawide Contract: define its requirements and complete, sign, and submit the appropriate Authorization form(s).

There are seven Authorizations available to the contracting Agency, offering the following services:

  • Electric Service
  • Electric Transmission Service
  • Energy Management Services
  • Gas Transportation Service
  • Natural Gas Service
  • Steam Service
  • Water Management Service

Each Authorization form takes up only one page, and requires very basic facility and energy use information. Nearly every form requires the same basic facility and administrative data, including:

  • Name and Address (Contracting Office) of Ordering Agency
  • Premises to be Serviced (Name of Building(s) to receive services)
  • Service Address
  • Nature of Services (check boxes for connect, change, disconnect, etc.)
  • Other Terms and Condition (attachment provided by the Ordering Agency detailing any other relevant terms and conditions under which service will be provided)
  • Point of Delivery
  • Term of Service
  • Billing Address
  • Signature and Date

In addition to this standard information, nearly each Authorization requires specific information on annual energy consumption and annual energy cost, as well as accounting and appropriation data.  Many facility managers already track their facility’s energy and cost data using a variety of sophisticated approaches. For those unfamiliar with collecting energy and cost data, the Contracting Utility may be willing to collect this data without charge. Also, a qualified energy services company can quickly analyze your energy consumption, demand, and requirements.

The one Authorization that differs significantly from the others is the Authorization for Energy Management Services. This Authorization allows a facility to procure a variety of energy management services, including energy audits, feasibility studies, engineering and design studies, installation of energy conservation projects, and demand-side management (DSM) projects. The Ordering Agency can also define its own energy management project (by marking “Other” and attaching detailed remarks).

The Authorizations for Electric Service, Steam Service, and Water Management Service include the option for DSM work or conservation projects. Using the DSM/conservation option on these Authorizations is recommended only if the proposed project is small in scope (for instance, a simple lighting retrofit).  Appropriate plans and/or specifications and a detailed description of the project should be attached.

Your Best Source for Utility Services

The GSA Areawide Contract has been around since the 1940s, when Congress first authorized GSA to enter into long-term utility contracts. Use of the Areawide Contract has grown dramatically since then – particularly since 1995, when the Authorization for Energy Management Services was added.   The GSA Areawide Contract is now recognized as a useful tool for Federal facility managers trying to cut energy and operating costs to meet the goals of these mandates.

Use the GSA Areawide Contract as an important component of your facility’s overall energy strategy – one that incorporates energy efficient design, optimal use of energy and alternative fuels, and positioning your facility to take advantage of potential cost savings from electric utility restructuring. GSA can help your facility meet its energy goals through the Areawide Contract and many other programs.


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