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On Wednesday, December 8, President Joe Biden signed an executive order (EO) to transition all federal buildings and vehicles to renewable energy sources by 2050, with according shifts to long-term procurement policy. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Counsel on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and Climate Policy Office issued a longer implementing memo. Much of the new EO aligns with earlier sustainability initiatives from the Biden Administration and Congress. Key deadlines include halting the purchase of gasoline-powered federal vehicles by 2035, acquiring lower-carbon materials for federal purposes in 2024, and achieving carbon-free electricity in federal buildings by 2050.

According to a White House fact sheet, the EO’s goals include:

  • 100% carbon pollution-free electricity use in federal infrastructure by 2030
  • 100% acquisition of zero-emission vehicles by 2035
  • 100% light duty vehicle acquisition by 2027
  • 50% reduction in building emissions by 2032
  • Modernize federal buildings portfolio to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045
  • Achieve net-zero emissions from federal procurement by 2050

The EO will also affect federal procurement: a new “Buy Clean” initiative in the order requires purchases of sustainable products that do not contain added PFAS chemicals and prioritizes low-carbon goods made in America. The White House’s implementing memo also orders agencies to prefer purchases of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-identified recycled content and ozone-safe materials; U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-certified biobased products; and Department of Energy-certified energy efficient products. New implementing instructions to agencies are due in 120 days. While these goals are subject to agency discretion, contractors can prepare now to meet new federal requirements as they finalize over the next two years.  

PFAS is a class of more than 2,000 water-resistant chemicals found in consumer items and firefighting gear but increasingly associated with chronic health problems. While the new White House PFAS procurement ban appears comprehensive, implementation may narrow: Congress has already ordered the Department of Defense (in P.L. 116-283) to stop purchasing by 2023 cookware and furniture containing added PFAS chemicals. The White House OMB this week directed other agencies to stop purchases of similar “covered items” as outlined in the earlier law, rather than banning purchases of all PFAS-containing products.

The new EO also creates a multiagency Buy Clean Task Force to develop pilot programs to reduce construction materials’ embodied-emissions impact. Within six months this federal Task Force must refine the scope of new action, and within two years must study the federal supply chain for impacts of new Buy Clean policies.

On this note, it will be crucial for the Biden Administration to acquire both electric vehicles and their associated infrastructure to meet their goal of transitioning the federal vehicle fleet to zero-emission vehicles by 2035. The Administration signaled their intent to collaborate with domestic vehicle, battery, and charging equipment manufacturers and installers to accelerate the adoption of EV technology. By doing so, the administration also hopes to promote job creation in the manufacturing, engineering, and skilled-trade industries. These priorities will lead to grant and funding opportunities coming out of the agencies such as the General Services Administration (GSA), which announced the planned electrification of its fleet in April 2021.

Lastly, to achieve 100% carbon pollution-free electricity use in federal buildings by 2030, the federal government will partner with utilities, developers, technology firms, and financers to purchase electricity generated from renewable sources. To ensure that 50% of this energy can be produced continuously without breaks, the government would need to produce this electricity in the same grid where it will be consumed. As a result, the Biden Administration expects to develop at least 10 gW of new clean energy production domestically by 2030, creating additional job opportunities in the process. The Department of Energy (DOE) will be searching for private sector partners as they lay out a roadmap to achieve this goal, creating opportunities for funding and collaboration. If you have questions about this executive order, please reach out to the MBS Federal Team.