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The GAO was asked to examine: the cost to the Government to develop building energy analysis computer programs; the utilization of these programs; the rationale for selecting a Government-developed program as the Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) evaluation technique for calculating energy consumption in buildings; the continuing need for the Government to develop these types of computer programs; and the need for parallel development of energy analysis computer programs by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Defense (DOD).
Federal and private energy analysis computer program development has increased rapidly; seven federally funded programs were identified. DOE has spent, by far, more than any other Federal agency on three versions of its energy analysis program. All seven programs are available to the public, but only two are used with any degree of frequency. The advisability of requiring the use of any particular program on all projects is questionable, because the user should understand how the program functions and how to interpret program data.
In proposing an evaluation technique to determine compliance with the BEPS, DOE chose to use a computer program. An issue in the controversy over the BEPS is whether any specific computer program should have been selected. DOE selected its own program over the Army's, even though DOE acknowledged that its program did not fully meet the selection criteria. DOE selected a program which would be available for public inspection, even though public domain programs have weaknesses; however, much of the criticism aimed at the DOE program probably could have been leveled at any of the programs available then.
DOE stated that the development of the DOE program, even though similar to the U.S. Army program, was the most appropriate decision. Federal officials in all of the agencies contacted, except DOE, agreed that their efforts were no longer needed in the development of energy analysis computer programs.