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Lights Dimmed at Pentagon in October for Energy Action Month

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2015 — The lights have been dimmed at the Pentagon for October as part of federal efforts to conserve resources for Energy Action Month.

John Conger, acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, said lighting levels in common areas throughout the building have been scaled back this month to the amount used on weekends.

The change will reduce the building’s utility bill and will help to motivate people to think about the energy they use and ways to be more efficient, he said.

The Pentagon, which is the Department of Defense headquarters, has 25,000 occupants and runs 24/7. Its monthly utility bill is about $1.5 million, Conger said.

Taking Action for Efficiency

The move is in conjunction with President Barack Obama's Executive Order 13693: Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, in which federal agencies are adopting more sustainable operations to reduce taxpayer energy costs.

"We care about energy at our installations and in the field, because we need energy in order to do our jobs in order to protect the country," Conger said. "However, one of the dynamics that feeds into that is we also need money to do all those things."

In these times of tight fiscal constraints and slashing budgets, Conger said, it is especially important to be cognizant of spending, while preserving the national security mission.

"We're past cutting fat and now we're cutting muscle, and we see that throughout the department as the budget cuts come down," he said. "If we can save some money without having an impact on mission, we should do it."

Using A Natural Resource to Cut Bills

Many of the areas where the lights have been dimmed have natural light that comes in, Conger said. Lighting also has been scaled back in a common area of a nearby complex, the Mark Center. By taking advantage of a natural resource and reducing the lighting, he said, the building will save an estimated 90,000 kilowatt-hours of energy.

"Because we have such a big utility bill, we're continuing to look for ways to increase the efficiency of our operations, not just in the Pentagon, but across the enterprise," Conger said.

In Conger's own office, he said, the staff is looking at no-cost or low-cost changes to save money, such as further reducing the lighting and adjusting heating and cooling temperatures.

"This isn't going to solve the DoD's budget problems by any stretch of the imagination,” he said, “but if everybody saves energy in little ways across the enterprise, it will make a difference."

Future Steps for Efficiency

The dimming was done in coordination with Washington Headquarters Services, which runs the Pentagon, Conger said.

The exercise is a test of what else the Pentagon can do to be more efficient, Conger explained. Washington Headquarters Services already is planning some changes, including using lower wattage of lighting in areas where daylight is plentiful, Conger said.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)