NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Outdated and Energy Wasteful Energy Projects on Capitol Hill

October 13, 2015

The Architect of the Capital (AOC) is responsible for managing the Capital Power Plant (CPP), which provides energy to the U.S. Congress. The AOC, in an attempt to reduce the CPP's energy consumption and increase energy efficiency, procured a "cogeneration" system that aims to produce electricity and steam.  The AOC made this procurement based on a 2009 long-term plan, and in 2014, the AOC published partial updates intending to justify the procurement.

However, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) contends that the AOC's plan is flawed.

  • For one, the plan has not adjusted its basic assumptions since it was first formulated.  For example, it does not account for changes in fuel prices
  • Also, the 2014 updates do not include comprehensive information regarding the need or problem that the cogeneration system seeks to resolve.
  • Furthermore, the updates do not identify a wide array of options for fulfilling projected future needs in a cost-effective manner.
  • In addition, the updates lack methods of testing for testing vital assumptions about whether the system will achieve enough savings over time to justify its costs.
  • Lastly, the AOC has neglected to consult any independent expert panels capable of review complex projects like the cogeneration system.

Consequently, the GAO advised the AOC to update its 2009 plan while following key leading practices (like considering multiple cost-management options) before initiating major energy projects at the CPP, and that the AOC seek an autonomous review of its plan.  The AOC responded with a letter to the GAO, taking issue with the GAO's characterization of the AOC's decision-making process, and defending the cogeneration system as a sound investment.  For its part, the GAO maintains that the AOC has still not sufficiently addressed the underlying issues raised by the initial report.

Source:  "Capital Power Plant: Architect of the Capital Should Update Its Long-Term Energy Plan before Committing to Major Energy Projects," Government Accountability Office, September 2015.


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