Empower Procurement Program

The Lab is dedicated to helping grow an institutional culture of sustainability in organizations and assisting them in attaining deeper energy savings and reduced emissions. To achieve these goals, the Sustainable Operations (SO) Group is building our understanding of procurement practices in the public and private sectors by partnering with state energy offices, local governments and private organizations. An example of this is Empower Procurement, a procurement assistance program funded by the California Energy Commission. As a partner of the Empower Procurement program, the SO Group researches and addresses the challenges and opportunities for buyers and sellers of clean energy technologies in California

Procurement holds the key to achieving significant energy savings and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions in organizations. Reducing emissions is an increasing priority for organizations in California, and 15% of the state’s GHG emissions come from electric power. The Empower Procurement program targets those GHG emissions by helping organizations purchase energy efficient and clean energy technologies.


Source: CARB Greenhouse Gas Inventory Trends  

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A Berkeley Lab study projected that complying with federal energy efficient purchasing requirements could save the government as much as $310M in operational energy costs and more than one million tons of CO2e annually. The Empower Procurement (hereafter “Empower”)program works to achieve these significant savings in California and help large organizations reach their decarbonization goals.       

In our survey of large California organizations, over 50% of respondents reported difficulty with acquiring new clean energy technologies.

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The Empower program works to reduce these barriers and simplify the complex procurement process. Our goals are to:

- Reduce organizations' energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions  

- Forge new market pathways for clean energy technologies 

- Reduce costs and administrative burden of buying clean energy technology for large buyers 

We are bridging the gap between providers of clean energy technologies and our client organizations while encouraging the purchase of emerging technologies.

Program Offerings

Institutions are often presented with a host of procedural obstacles that complicate the procurement process and hinder the adoption of clean energy technologies. The Empower team uses the five-step framework for institutional change to structure its program offerings and help organizations establish a process for continual improvement at their site.

5-step framework (Empower)

The SO Group uses the five-step framework to assist with the development of the Empower program’s six procurement initiatives tailored to address common challenges that buyers and sellers face with purchasing sustainable products and services. We lead the Empower program’s initiatives as a consulting service for organizations’ procurement practices and providing tools for organizations to adopt standardized acquisition language.

Consulting Initiative

medium_Analysis-hands-graphs-computerUnder the Consulting Initiative, the SO Group takes a deep dive into each client organization to learn about its existing procurement practices and identify its main barriers with purchasing clean energy technologies. We utilize the five-step framework for institutional change when consulting client organizations.

As part of the first step “Identifying Institutional Barriers”, we use the Roles, Rules, and Tool (RRT) methodology to assess how our program offerings will best help institutions by determining:

Empower 5 Step

The information gathered in this Consulting Initiative informs the implementation of our program’s other initiatives and identifies any need for additional tools or services.

Contracting Initiative


“Developing contract documents” is cited as a frequent bottleneck for organizations purchasing clean energy technologies. To address this challenge, under the Contracting Initiative the SO Group works with client organizations to standardize and enhance the clarity of their acquisition language to prioritize energy efficient and clean energy technologies. We develop a package of contract language that is tailored to the client organization’s needs and includes resources like cut-and-paste language, contract templates, technical specifications, and more.

See the Specialized Acquisition Language Library for sample language for purchasing energy-consuming products and services. 

E-Procurement Initiative

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The E-Procurement Initiative is exploring how the tools buyers utilize can support sustainable purchasing. E-procurement systems are software that aids the process of buying and selling supplies and services and/or reporting purchasing results over the internet. Different features and configurations can be added to common e-procurement systems to support buyers in identifying, verifying, and reporting on sustainable purchasing.

The LBNL team hosts a monthly working group, E-Procurement Systems Supporting Sustainable Purchasing, that brings together different stakeholders to address the challenges with e-procurement systems supporting the identification, verification, and reporting of sustainable products. We meet on the fourth Thursday every month at 12 noon PST. We are a collaborative space for vendors, manufacturers, ecolabel certifiers, e-procurement system providers, and buyers to share and learn from their experiences and implement solutions in this space.  

In the working group we discuss:

  • Challenges system users face
  • Resources navigating e-procurement systems and sustainable product labeling
  • Improvements suppliers, manufacturers, and e-procurement systems vendors can do to make identifying, verifying, and reporting on sustainable purchasing easier for buyers

Image of onepager document Through this working group, we have recently developed multiple one-pagers that can be used to spur conversation between the different stakeholders in this area to to help sustainable procurement occur by default. This template can act as a conversation starter, a way to request different needs, or an educational tool. 

Reach out to Billie Holecek at bmholecek@lbl.gov with any questions.

Research and Resources

The SO Group researches the intricacies of the buyer and seller market for clean energy technologies in California. Our research helps the Empower program better understand the products and services marketplace for clean energy technology and formulate solutions that will reduce transaction costs and improve information flow. 

Introduction to Empower (2020).
This presentation introduces the Empower program and provides more details on the procurement initiatives the SO Group leads. 

Wang, Liyang, Morabito, Molly. "Introduction to Empower". Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council. 2020.

SPLC Workshop: Optimizing E-Procurement Systems for Sustainable Purchasing (2021).

In large organizations, electronic purchasing systems drive what gets bought. This workshop will help organizations realize the potential of ERP systems in supporting their sustainable procurement goals and spark a discussion around implementation barriers and solutions. Purchasers will explore what to request when acquiring a new ERP system and how to optimize their existing ERP system for more cost and GHG savings. View the slides here. 

Abdul-Khabir, Fatima, Holecek, Billie. "Optimizing E-Procurement Systems for Sustainable Purchasing". Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) Virtual Series: Deep Dive Day 3. 2021.

Writing Solicitations for Energy Savings Webinar (2021).

This webinar dives into how purchasing officers can cut energy costs and carbon emissions for their organization through effective solicitation language. Our team walks through the types of solicitations to considers, what sections in a solicitation need attention to ensure buyers receive energy-efficient products, and provides different examples of effective language in solicitations. Slides are available here.

Abdul-Khabir, Fatima, Holecek, Billie. "Writing Solicitations for Energy Savings Webinar". Empower Procurement. 2021.

Sustainable Purchasing Policy Development Webinar #1: Developing Procurement Policies for Energy Savings (2020).

This policy development webinar was delivered to key staff at California Community Colleges as part of the Empower program's consulting initiative. We provide insights into six essential components to include in a sustainable purchasing policy to maximize energy savings. Slides are available here.

Morabito, Molly. "Developing Procurement Policies for Energy Savings". Empower Procurement Sustainable Purchasing Policy Development Webinar #1. 2020.

Sustainable Purchasing Policy Development Webinar #2: Capturing Energy Saving Opportunities in Procurement Policies (2021).

The second installment in the Policy Development Webinar Series delivered to California Community College staff delved into how sustainable procurement policy can enhance energy savings in existing procurement processes across an organization. Our team walks through how policy influences the purchase of energy efficient products in three different purchasing scenarios common to an organization; one-off buys, MRO contracts, and new construction. Slides are available here

Abdul-Khabir, Fatima, Wang, L., Robinson, G. " Capturing Energy Saving Opportunities in Procurement Policies,". Empower Procurement Sustainable Purchasing Policy Development Webinar #2. 2021.

Sustainable Purchasing Policy Development Webinar #3: The Purchasing Perspective (2021).

The third webinar in our Policy Development Webinar Series reviews the impact sustainable purchasing can have at California Community Colleges (CCCs) and what purchasing officers can do to help move these initiatives forward at their own college. We hear about a case study on one way to overcome the "high cost" of sustainable purchase as told by San Mateo Community College District and learn about the CCC system's existing resources for sustainable purchasing from a representative from the Foundation of the CCCs. Slides are available here

Abdul-Khabir, Fatima, Holecek, B., Miranda, J., Burwick, J. " The Purchasing Perspective". Empower Procurement Sustainable Purchasing Policy Development Webinar #3. 2021.

Identifying Institutional Barriers and Policy Implications for Sustainable Energy Technology Adoption Among Large Organizations in California (2020).

This exploratory study looks to better understand the processes through which large organizations purchase sustainable energy technologies and what challenges they experience during that process. The bar graph below shows the results of survey responses from large purchasers in California when asked to identify common barriers to purchasing clean energy technologies.

Buyer Survey Results

The Empower program is tackling the top two most frequent barriers, high cost and lack of financing options, by encouraging and supporting market growth for clean energy technologies.

Wang, LiyangMolly MorabitoChristopher T Payne, and Gerald Robinson"Identifying institutional barriers and policy implications for sustainable energy technology adoption among large organizations in California." Energy Policy 146 (2020) 111768. DOI 

Selling Sustainability Series: Understanding the Customer (2020).

In the first webinar of the Selling Sustainability series, the SO Group and Prospect Silicon Valley present survey and assessment results highlighting key barriers, opportunities and motivations for buyers and sellers of clean energy technologies. 

Prospect Silicon Valley, Wang, Liyang. "Selling Sustainability Series: Understanding the Customer". Empower Procurement. 2020.

For more information on sustainable technology procurement best practices, visit the SO Group’s Federal Energy Efficient Product Procurement page. 

Additional Websites

Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC): SPLC is a nonprofit organization that supports and recognizes purchasing leadership that accelerates the transition to a sustainable future. 

ecomedes: Ecomedes is a software database that helps enterprises reduce costs and impacts through optimized product purchasing.


Since the Empower program’s conception in early 2018, the SO Group has been conducting market research and developing the program offerings. 

If you are a large institution interested in reducing your energy consumption and participating in the pilot launch of our program offerings, reach out to the Berkeley Lab program lead Gerald Robinson for more details.


 The Cal-OP ACE Project is supported by

The SO Group works with these partner organizations to achieve the Empower program’s goals:

Visit the Empower Procurement program website to learn more about the program and its partners.

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