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Evaluation of Future Strategic and Energy Efficient Options for the U.S. Capitol Power Plant Summary The U.S. Capitol Complex in Washington, D.C., comprises some of the most historic, symbolic, and heavily used buildings in the nation. Among these are the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, the House and Senate office buildings, the U.S. Botanic Gardens, the Capitol Visitors Center, and various support facilities. Within these buildings, public policy is made, legislation is enacted, and priceless artifacts and documents are stored and displayed. They are the workplaces of 535 congressional representatives, the justices of the Supreme Court, their staffs, the staff of the Library of Congress, and others and are the destination of millions of people from around the world. Reliable, secure utilities to heat, cool, and power these buildings are essential to the functions carried out within them. The steam and chilled water required to heat and cool these buildings and related equipment are generated and distributed by the Capitol Power Plant (CPP)1 district energy system.2 The CPP system includes a steam plant, two refrigeration plants, administrative buildings, a coal yard, and more than 3 miles of tunnels and trenches located beneath city streets and neighborhoods. Steam is generated through seven boilers that burn a combination of low-sulfur coal, natural gas, and fuel oil. The Office of the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is responsible for oversight of the Capitol Complex and the CPP. Today, the CPP accounts for more than 30 percent of the total energy consumption and 37 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the U.S. Capitol Complex. The condition of the tunnel system is deteriorating. Complaints of unsafe working conditions in the tunnels arose as a result of falling concrete, asbestos, and extreme heat, as well as the lack of communication systems, lighting, and adequate egress for workers in an emergency. Portions of the CPP and the tunnels are 50 to 100 years old and are reaching the end of their useful lives. They require an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars or more to provide reliable, secure utility services to the U.S. Capitol Complex for the foreseeable future. With growing public concern about improved energy efficiency, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and reduced dependence on imported oil, the renewal of the CPP and its distribution network presents a significant opportunity to showcase energy-efficient technologies and lead the nation by example. In 2008, the AOC requested that the National Research Council (NRC) appoint an ad hoc committee to (1) evaluate publicly available consultant-generated options for the delivery of utility services to the U.S. Capitol Complex and (2) recommend how the Capitol Power Plant can be best positioned to meet the future strategic and energy efficiency requirements of the U.S. Capitol Complex. The AOC specifically requested that the committee act as a second-level reality check against fatal flaws in the AOC methodology or strategic development. 1 The Capitol Power Plant stopped producing electricity in the 1950s; electricity for the U.S. Capitol Complex is supplied by the Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO). 2 A district energy system produces steam, hot water, or chilled water at a central plant and distributes them out to buildings in the district for space heating, domestic hot water heating, and air conditioning. A system of this type eliminates the need for individual buildings to have their own boilers or furnaces, chillers, or condensers for air conditioners.
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Evaluation of Future Strategic and Energy Efficient Options for the U.S. Capitol Power Plant COMMITTEE’S APPROACH This report of the Committee on the Evaluation of Future Strategic and Energy Efficient Alternatives for the U.S. Capitol Power Plant (see Appendix A) is based on the AOC’s and its consultants’ presentations at two committee meetings, including a workshop (see Appendixes B and C); the report entitled Strategic Long Term Energy Plan 70% Report (hereinafter referred to as the 70% Report), (AOC, 2009); and a brief oral presentation of the utility service distribution options. The 70% Report is an interim report that is still subject to additions and revisions. It includes the background information on the existing CPP and its operations and presents 10 primary options for the CPP, its tunnel distribution system, and “non-CPP” distributed options. The options analyzed for the CPP include the existing configuration with three options for fuel mix; combined heat and power (co-generation); construction of a new plant; and the use of a range of technologies, including fuel cells, coal gasification, heat recovery chillers, waste-to-energy, and high-temperature water . In response to committee comments at its first meeting on December 4 and 5, 2008, the AOC contracted for an analysis of carbon dioxide (CO2) and hazardous air pollutant emissions for each of the options. The results of the analysis were presented at the committee’s March 12, 2009, workshop. No additional studies were available to the committee. FINDINGS Within the parameters of the 70% Report, the committee did not find any fatal flaws in the analyses presented. The committee was impressed with the competence and dedication of the AOC staff, which provided the committee as much operating data as it could within the security limitations in force. It was clear that the AOC staff was sincerely seeking feedback from the committee and is willing to improve the outcome of the planning effort. The committee was also impressed with the consulting teams for the number of options (17) for the CPP plant and the distribution systems considered in the 70% Report. The consulting teams demonstrated considerable knowledge of and experience in the types of systems that exist to serve the U.S. Capitol Complex and the technologies that are current and viable. Regarding the 70% Report, the committee has three overarching findings: First, the 70% Report makes no mention of the unique characteristics of the U.S. Capitol Complex and of the opportunities presented to serve as an example to the nation. Second, based on the material in the 70% Report and two face-to-face meetings, the committee provided recommendations to bring the 70% Report to 100 percent completion, including suggestions for additional analyses and for the development of indices to evaluate the options. Third, all options presented in the 70% Report retain essentially all of the institutional, environmental, political, and economic constraints under which the CPP and the distribution system currently operate. This approach necessarily limits the choice of options and may preclude the consideration of more creative options that could result in improved solutions. Among the shortcomings in the 70% Report are the following:
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Evaluation of Future Strategic and Energy Efficient Options for the U.S. Capitol Power Plant Lack of a clear statement of assessment criteria for the options presented; Lack of a holistic systems approach; Acceptance of all current constraints as immutable; Acceptance of all current relationships as permanently binding; and Demand projections that are not supported by firm data and are not reflective of applicable mandates for energy consumption reduction. RECOMMENDATIONS In order to bring the 70% Report to 100 percent completion as the Strategic Long-Term Energy Plan for the U.S. Capitol Complex and to support and justify the consultants’ recommendations for the preferred option(s), the committee recommends additional work in eight strategic areas, as follows: Articulate the methodology used for evaluating and selecting the option(s); Develop additional indices to be used to evaluate the options; Integrate the construction phasing with the energy demand planning horizons; Conduct more comprehensive environmental evaluations of the options; Evaluate the likelihood that the options would meet regulatory requirements; Perform sensitivity analyses for different CO2 allowances and fuel availabilities and prices, given the uncertainty of future greenhouse gas regulations and energy supplies and prices; Evaluate distribution tunnel layouts; and Summarize the results and rationale for the selected option(s). In regard to the committee’ s broader charge of recommending how the CPP can be best positioned to meet the future strategic and energy efficiency requirements of the U.S. Capitol Complex, the committee recommends that additional analyses be performed in six areas as follows: Reliability and risk assessments: Conduct a comprehensive risk analysis of each viable alternative to ascertain that it is capable of continuously generating and delivering the required services. Comparative demand and supply projections: Develop a strategic decision making tool to aid the Congress and the AOC in planning and seeking funding for the upgrading of the CPP and the utility distribution system. Workforce demand evaluations: Evaluate the implications for labor costs, skills, training, and staffing of operational changes in the CPP and the distribution system. Exploration of a wider range of technologies: Undertake a study of technologies that may become warrantable in the next 25 years. Benchmarking: Develop a plan for measuring the performance of the CPP, using benchmarks for efficiency, environmental compliance, and other measures. Response to shortcomings identified: Review the shortcomings that have not been explicitly addressed as recommendations and develop an action plan to address those shortcomings the AOC considers material. The common theme of these additional analyses is to differentiate the unique attributes of the U.S. Capitol Complex and the CPP infrastructure project from typical district energy projects, and to seize the opportunity for setting an example for the nation in regard to energy reliability, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, security, and environmental stewardship.
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