In 2007, the U.S. government passed the Energy Independence Act, which called for federal agencies to start weaning themselves off petroleum fuels and increasing the energy efficiency of buildings.

The desired results of those programs, which have been enacted across the federal government, from the General Services Administration to the U.S. Department of Defense, are now being realized.

New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that government energy use, including electricity and liquid fuels, was the lowest in 2013 that it has been since recordkeeping began in 1975. Some might argue that the low numbers are a result of an extended recession and America's reduced military presence in the Middle East. But there is a larger trend at play.

The DOD, in particular, has a vested interest in moving away from petroleum in order to avoid battlefield risks associated with moving fuels around. The downward trend is mostly due to the DOD using less jet fuel.

In addition to reducing consumption, the Navy has a goal of getting 50 percent of its energy from alternative sources by 2020. The goal will be a difficult one given the continued high price of biofuels. But for the first time last year, the military requested biofuel blends as part of its procurement.

Things have been easier on the building energy efficiency side. The federal government has a mandate to slash building energy consumption 20 percent by this year compared to a 2003 baseline.

Those goals have been expanded under President Obama, and now include water efficiency targets and a call for 20 percent of the federal government’s electricity to come from renewables by 2020.

The GSA, the largest owner of buildings in the U.S., has used its Green Proving Ground program to evaluate sustainable building technologies. Based on performance, the GSA can then recommend technologies to its portfolio. The program has brought LEDs, building sensors, predictive HVAC optimization and other efficiency technologies to many of its properties.  

For more on how the GSA is using renewables and investing in energy efficiency, listen to this episode of the Energy Gang podcast featuring guest Ruth Cox, GSA’s senior sustainability officer, below.