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Remarks at the Oklahoma City Federal Building Ribbon Cutting on May 11, 2023, as Prepared for Administrator Robin Carnahan

Thanks Kevin. I’m glad to be here with all of you as we cut the ribbon on the grid-interactive and smart building technologies that make the Oklahoma City Federal Building a national model for clean energy innovation and efficiency.

First, I’d like to thank our partners – the Department of Energy, OG&E, Ameresco, and the Rocky Mountain Institute. It’s clear that we all value innovation, communication, and integration – all of which are crucial to public-private partnership.

The new technologies in this building are a great example of what GSA and this Administration wants to accomplish all over the country. It’s the triple win of sustainability: good jobs, reduced energy costs, and a brighter future for our kids. 

But, before I talk about how far we’ve come with this building – and what that means for the future – I need to acknowledge the past.

I visited the Memorial this morning to honor the 168 Americans who were killed in 1995, including two GSA employees. In the spirit of Public Service Recognition Week, it’s important that we remember the dedication and commitment of public servants. It’s a sacred responsibility – and I know that there are GSA and other federal employees who survived that attack and are still serving in this building today.

Let’s take a moment to recognize all public servants – not just in federal service, but also in states as well as cities like Oklahoma City.

When it was time to rebuild, Carol Ross Barney was selected as the architect – the first woman to design a federal building in the U.S.

Her challenge was to design a space that…

  • Served the mission needs of federal employees;
  • Set a new standard for federal security;
  • Reflected this building’s importance as an anchor for the community; and,
  • Honored the history of this space and the victims of April 19, 1995.

I took a tour just now and it’s clear that she accomplished all those goals and much more. In fact, the American Institute of Architects awarded her a Gold Medal, its highest honor, for her work.

One of the reasons we are celebrating here today is because her design was always meant to adapt.

In 2019, we reached out to the Rocky Mountain Institute and asked them to help us create a framework to transition to grid-interactive efficient buildings – starting here.

We knew that sustainable, energy efficient buildings were great for the federal portfolio, great for the environment, and smart investments of taxpayer dollars.

Together, we created a roadmap to achieve energy efficiency across the federal portfolio – over 370 million square feet. The team here in Oklahoma City saw this plan, knew this building, understood the market here in Oklahoma City…and got to work

We know that if we could do this here, we could do it anywhere… in any city, along the borders, and in rural areas. Oklahoma City was the perfect place to start… it’s a building located in the heart of the city… it’s a space with limited room to expand… and it’s a market with relatively low utility rates.

That’s when Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OG&E) came on board. They were great collaborators – they developed a forward thinking, viable proposal that would help maximize the potential of this effort.

From there, we got buy-in from our partners, our tenants, and the Department of Energy. We all explored what was possible. For example, DOE was standing up their own smart buildings program, so they were excited to jump on board.

We started with 5 design goals:

  • Incorporate on-site renewable energy, like the solar panels we have onsite;
  • Use a micro-grid controller, the brain of this building, to help balance power use;
  • Have on-site battery storage so that we could collect and manage our own power;
  • Make the building as energy efficient as possible in other ways, like LED lighting, better motors, and more efficient HVAC systems; and,
  • Set a new standard for energy efficient federal buildings that could be replicated across the country.

We knew that changes needed to be economically viable while improving reliability and sustainability. We also had to overcome unexpected challenges, like supply chain issues due to the pandemic. 

And we had to invest our funding wisely – including using funds from a DOE grant and the benefits of a Utility Energy Service Contract.

As of today, we have met all of the original design goals…and even exceeded our original expectations.

The project is reducing energy use by 41%, cutting 3,100 metric tons of carbon emissions, and saving $400,000 annually in energy costs.

I’m hearing great stories about the cutting-edge features of how this building interacts with the grid. For example: 

  • It can detect when it’s using a lot of power and decrease use as needed, making sure the building and the grid has enough power for everyone;
  • It can share electricity so that if the building is producing additional energy from its renewables or has enough in storage, we can give that power back to the grid; and,
  • It can operate for 3 hours if the grid is off, meaning that if there’s an outage or a natural disaster – like a tornado – the building can keep functioning.

With that backdrop, I’m pleased that we’ll cut the ribbon on this grid-efficient interactive building that’s going to set a new standard for federal buildings everywhere. That’s important because we plan to power 100% of federal buildings with carbon pollution-free electricity by 2030 and, by 2045, we want all federal buildings to achieve net-zero emissions.

We need more federal buildings like we have right here in Oklahoma City… we need more partners that help us drive sustainability and resilience while investing in homegrown technologies along the way.

With the funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, we’ll be able to do more projects just like this one – and get similar benefits at federal buildings across the country.

That’s how we’ll create good jobs, increase the resilience of our power grid, and reduce energy costs to save taxpayer dollars. Most of all, this is how we’ll build a more sustainable future, making our communities healthier for ourselves and our kids.