The Department is having trouble taking its own advice, according to an internal audit, proving saving energy is easier to promise than to actually do.

DOEWASHINGTON, D.C. — Like flossing or losing weight, saving energy is easier to promise than to actually do — even if you are the Department of Energy.

Its Web site advises that choosing new lighting technologies can slash energy use by 50 to 75 percent. But the department is having trouble taking its own advice, according to an internal audit released on Wednesday; many of its offices are still installing obsolete fluorescent bulbs.

And very few have switched to the most promising technology, light-emitting diodes, which the department spent millions of dollars to help commercialize.

Many of the changes would generate savings that would pay back the investment in two years or so, according to the report, by the department’s inspector general.

In one case, the Department of Energy made most of the investment by installing timers to shut off lights at night when it moved into a new building in 1997. But it got no benefit: as of March of this year, it had not bought the central control unit needed to run the system.

“We are requesting people in the federal sector and the private sector to do the cost-benefit analysis and make the investment,” Gregory H. Friedman, the inspector general, said in a telephone interview. “We should do it ourselves.”

Asked about the report, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, Stephanie Mueller, said, “We can acknowledge there’s more work that needs to be done.”

The problem is not ignorance, the report suggests. For example, the department helped develop a technology called spectrally enhanced lighting that gives off light at wavelengths that mimic the sun. Officials at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago told the auditors that that they could reduce energy consumption by 50 percent by switching to the new technology from old fluorescents.

But of seven sites, with 96 buildings in all, that the auditors visited, only two used the enhanced lighting. In many cases buildings were using fluorescents introduced 40 years ago.

Energy Department offices gave a variety of explanations for why they were unable to update their lighting. Some said the lights were in high-security areas. And in some cases, the lighting that needs replacing is on very high ceilings and hard to get to, auditors were told.

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Source: The New York Times
Photo: U.S. Department of Energy