Federal landlord expands innovative green tech program

By Andres Picon | 06/09/2023 01:59 PM EDT

The General Services Administration is investing $30 million in an effort to shrink the federal government’s carbon footprint.

General Services Administration headquarters in Washington.

General Services Administration headquarters in Washington. Francis Chung/POLITICO's E&E News

The Biden administration is injecting new cash into a federal program designed to spur innovation in green technologies and fast-track the government’s transition to cleaner buildings.

The General Services Administration is investing $30 million into its Green Proving Ground initiative to test 20 new “emerging and sustainable technologies,” agency Administrator Robin Carnahan announced Friday morning at the American Institute of Architects conference in San Francisco.

The program’s expansion represents a fourfold increase over previous years’ testing capacity as the administration races to decarbonize its massive real estate portfolio. It’s the latest example of how GSA, effectively the government’s landlord, is trying to leverage the Biden administration’s purchasing power to fund and evaluate up-and-coming clean tech.


“This significant expansion of the Green Proving Ground program is a prime example of how President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is driving the next generation of clean energy jobs and innovation,” Carnahan said in a statement. “Across the country, we’re turning federal buildings into testbeds for clean energy innovation — which will mean more good jobs, savings for taxpayers, and a healthier planet for our kids.”

With the new round of funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, the program will focus on seven technology areas, which include electric vehicle charging equipment, greenhouse gas accounting technologies, low-carbon construction materials, energy storage systems and energy-efficient windows.

The administration believes the technologies have potential for future adoption on a commercial level and could help drive widespread emissions reductions.

“Since we’ve had such great success in the past, we’re confident that the products we’re bringing in … are going to have big impact,” Carnahan said in prepared remarks. “It’s a win-win because those homegrown technologies can then be commercialized more easily.”

GSA manages more than 8,000 buildings across the country and plans to transition them to carbon-free electricity by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2045. The agency is also working to transition its fleet of more than 240,000 vehicles to non-emitting ones by 2035.

Friday’s announcement comes less than a month after GSA announced a new purchasing plan for federal buildings that requires the use of “substantially lower embodied carbon construction materials” for agency construction projects.

That pilot program is also funded by the Inflation Reduction Act. Last year’s climate law includes about $2.15 billion for low-carbon building materials and nearly $1 billion to support emerging green tech.

The results of the upcoming Green Proving Ground evaluations will be available in 2025, officials said.

The program has tested more than 100 sustainable technologies since 2011, and about one-fifth of them have actually been deployed in federal buildings. GSA says those innovations have reduced carbon emissions by 116,000 tons annually and saved the government $28 million each year.