Remarks for Energy Exchange as prepared for Administrator Robin Carnahan

Thank you, Anna. It’s always great to be with you and our colleagues from the Department of Energy and so many like-minded partners from across government and industry.

It’s been an exciting couple of days…all the energy, and creativity and collaboration is the perfect lead up as we get ready to celebrate Earth Day next month.

Does anyone know how long that’s been going on?  

54 years. 

That’s right, this year marks the 54th celebration of Earth Day. We’ve come a long way in those 54 years to raise awareness about how every one of us has a role to play in protecting the environment and making a healthier planet. 

At a time when this world can often seem deeply divided, it’s worth remembering that people and families everywhere all want the same things… clean air to breathe…healthy food and clean water to drink… and safe communities where their kids can thrive.

As I’ve talked to people this week and learned more about the new technologies being deployed and new projects coming online across the country, I’m reminded of that phrase we’ve all heard so many times – “think globally, act locally.” Because that’s exactly what’s happening. 

It turns out that concept that’s been around a very long time. Its roots date back to the Scottish biologist and social scientist Patrick Geddes who wrote a book called Cities in Evolution more than 100 years ago.

I’ve had the chance to visit many federal facilities in communities across the country. Everywhere I go, I see the impact that our GSA team, collaborating with federal and industry partners, are having to address climate change and create a more resilient, sustainable, competitive and prosperous America. 

The scope and scale of what’s happening is remarkable.  And it’s all made possible because of the once in a generation investments of the Inflation Reduction Act… the biggest investment in sustainability in our lifetimes. 

As you may know, GSA owns and manages one of the largest real estate portfolios in the country as well as largest vehicle fleets. We also buy more than $100 billion in goods and services on behalf of the federal government, including being one of the largest buyers of energy along with the Defense Department.  

That means we have a big opportunity…and big responsibility to get it right.

I’m sure folks in this room know that about 42% of carbon emissions come from the built environment. That means, how we as the federal government decide to construct and operate our buildings really matters. And, right now, we can all be proud of the work we’re doing to lead by example. 

President Biden has ambitious goals for all federal buildings to be run by carbon pollution-free electricity by 2030 and be net-zero in their operations by 2045.

The good news is, we’re aggressively moving toward that goal with smart, strategic and sustainable Investments in America.

I always talk about these investments in sustainability as a triple win because they:

  • Create more American jobs and a thriving, clean energy economy.
  • Save money for taxpayers by reducing energy use.
  • Make the planet and our communities healthier for our kids and future generations.

They’re also critically important for national security.

The even better news is that while we’re already making incredible progress, we’re perfectly positioned to do even more.  I want to give you a few examples…

Last November, GSA announced investments of over $2 billion in Inflation Reduction Act funds for more than 150 low-embodied carbon projects across 39 states. 

Just yesterday, I visited one of those at the Weis Courthouse here in Pittsburgh. We’re investing $16 million dollars in repairs to strengthen and make that building safer and more sustainable… and we’re doing it using low-embodied carbon materials, like concrete, asphalt and steel. 

It’s a perfect example of thinking globally and acting locally.

Another great example is in Oklahoma City where we’ve invested in efficiency and grid resilience. We did that by transforming the Oklahoma City Federal Building into a grid-efficient building by doing a deep energy retrofit that dramatically cut energy use, deployed solar and battery technologies, and integrated with the local power grid so that the building’s storage capacity can be tapped into by the local utility company to balance loads at times of peak demand.

I know that team won a FEMP award yesterday for this fantastic project, and they’re looking to do more. 

Reducing our energy use by making building operations more efficient is a giant win because so much energy loss and emissions come from buildings. That’s why we’re investing nearly a billion dollars in efficiency, including clean energy technologies and Energy Savings Performance Contracts. Those IRA funds combined with significant private sector funding will go toward upgrading about 20% of our building portfolio and creating 100 new net zero buildings.

We know these investments are the fastest, most cost-effective way to make real progress in meeting our climate goals. And they’re already happening.

From 18 buildings at the Denver Federal Center to the 3 million square foot Ronald Reagan Building in Washington DC, these deep energy retrofits are spurring American innovation, creating good paying jobs, and reducing energy consumption, saving money and cutting emissions. 

So for any suppliers or industry folks in the room, please know that we want to work with you…

We need your expertise, technology and tools…Because we know the only way to meet this moment and quickly scale up these common sense efficiencies is by working with you to make it happen. 

We also rely on help from our union brothers and sisters who are not only on the front lines doing the work, but also recruiting and training the skilled American workers we need to actually succeed. 

Just yesterday, I visited the IBEW Local 5 Training Center here in Pittsburgh.  Those electricians were among the first in the nation to train apprentices on how to install EV chargers. And just like other IBEW training sites around the country, they’re on the front line of our transition to a clean energy economy by training folks on everything from installing solar panels and charging infrastructure to integrating smart building technology and creating micro-grids. 

Highly skilled American workers are crucial partners in all of this work and I’d encourage all of you to visit and find ways to support the job training centers funded and run by Union Building Trades across the country.

At the same time we’re focused on efficiency, we’re also working with local utility companies and regulators so that we can buy 100% carbon free electricity to power our federal buildings by 2030. Our first green tariff was with Entergy Arkansas where we created one of the world’s first 24/7 CFE utility tariffs and we’ve got agreements with 4 more utility companies covering 7 states and the District of Columbia to do even more.

This is what smart, sustainable Investments in America look like…Investments that deliver a triple win…good jobs, cost savings, and healthier communities…and that can be replicated around the country.

I mentioned earlier that GSA also manages the federal fleet of over 200,000 vehicles. We’re working to transition as many as we can to zero emission vehicles and our goal is to have all our light-duty vehicle purchases be all-electric by 2027 and all government vehicles by 2035.  

Now, I know those sound like ambitious goals, but we’re making real progress. Last year, we increased our year-on-year numbers of EVs by 63% and we’re on track to do even better this year. 

Of course, transitioning to EVs also requires charging infrastructure. So, we’re installing $25 million worth EV charging infrastructure in federal buildings all across the country. 

That translates into nearly 800 charging ports across 32 federal buildings. We’re starting in places where the demand already exists, but we’re also planning for the future. 

So if anyone is interested in seeing details about those 32 locations, you can find it at And if you’re in the business of selling EV equipment and infrastructure, keep a look out for upcoming opportunities.  

If you’re a federal agency looking to install charging infrastructure, you should also take a look at that website because we can help ensure you get the equipment you need, when you need it, and in a way that meets both your mission and security needs.

Bottomline…whether it’s investing in high efficiency buildings, electric vehicles or carbon free electricity, at GSA and across the government, we’re leading by example.  It’s happening all across the country – from Salt Lake City to San Luis, Arizona… from Cleveland to Topeka… from Dallas to Denver… from Pittsburgh to D.C. 

I’ve been around long enough to know how unusual it is to have momentum and money at the same time to work on really important things. But, thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and the real money he’s put behind that, we have an incredible opportunity to make a real impact. 

But I want to be absolutely clear, the progress and momentum we’re seeing isn’t happening because of decrees from Washington.  It’s happening because people like you…who are finding ways to help your communities and our planet become healthier and more sustainable…

You’re thinking globally and acting locally.  And you’re creating that triple win of good jobs, cost savings and healthier communities.

For many years, those of us in government and industry were told we had to make a choice between those goals.  We couldn’t have them all.  But what we’re seeing today is altogether different.  Innovative technologies and new ways of thinking are rewriting the rule book and giving us the chance to add a new chapter to the great American story of progress, resilience, and possibilities…

As I look out across this room, I’m convinced that we’re up to the task.

Our teams are ready… The need is urgent… The time is now. 

And the impact will be profound for our planet, our country, and our families. 

So, let’s get to work.