The seven selected agencies in GAO’s review awarded approximately $12.1 billion in energy savings performance contracts (ESPC) in fiscal years 1995 through 2014 and plan to continue using them to help meet federal energy directives and initiatives. Under ESPCs, private contractors finance the up-front costs of energy improvements. Agencies then repay contractors from the savings, such as those resulting from lower utility bills.
Cost and energy savings that contractors reported to agencies for most ESPCs met or exceeded expectations, but some of these savings may be overstated. GAO’s review of a nongeneralizable sample of 20 projects found that contractors’ reports overstated cost and energy savings for 14 projects. For example, one agency removed equipment for a sewer system upgrade, which resulted in over $104,000 in annual savings that were reported but not achieved, or about 40 percent of the project’s reported savings.
The seven agencies in GAO’s review have conducted limited oversight and evaluation of their ESPC projects. In GAO’s sample of 20 projects, agency representatives did not perform some oversight activities included in guidance because they were unaware of these duties or how to perform them, among other reasons. Without ensuring that training provides officials with the information needed to understand how to perform their oversight responsibilities, agencies may continue to inconsistently perform oversight.