« View All Blog Posts

The Department of Defense as a Catalyst for Renewable Energy
By George Gay

For every dollar increase in the price of a barrel of oil, the Department of the Navy's annual operating costs go up by $30,000,000. Congress doesn't give the Navy that extra money; they have to find it from somewhere else in their budget.  One in four casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan were related to guarding and transporting fuel and water.  Looked at in another way, U.S. Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered one casualty for every 55,702 barrels of fuel burned. And the military burns A LOT of fuel.

As the Moderator of a panel on this subject at the 2011 SRI in the Rockies Conference, held in early October in New Orleans, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Hicks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, and Vice Admiral (Retired) Dennis McGinn.  To listen to a tape

For reasons such as those identified above, the Secretary of the Navy identified the following sustainability goals in 2009:

“Energy Security  is critical to our success.  We will safeguard our energy infrastructure and shield ourselves from a volatile fuel supply.  We will:

•  Deploy the 21st-century ‘Great Green Fleet’

•  Aggressively reduce our reliance on fossil fuels

•  Secure a sufficient, reliable, and sustainable energy supply

Energy Efficiency  increases our combat effectiveness.  We will expand our tactical reach and minimize operational risks, saving time, money, and lives. We all take responsibility for energy efficiency.

We will:

•  Incentivize industry to be more efficient

•  Accelerate energy efficient technologies through greater investment in RDT&E

•  Adapt operational policies and doctrine to value energy as a strategic asset

Environmental Stewardship  is our responsibility. We will reduce the environmental impacts of our energy use,  lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and promote sustainability.  We will:

•  Swiftly adopt cutting-edge low-carbon technologies

•  Consider carbon emissions in our daily operations and our procurements

•  Replace energy from fossil fuels with energy from alternative and renewable sources”

To switch focus to another branch of service, the Army, which spent $1.2 billion on energy costs in 2010, is under legislative mandate to reduce its energy consumption 30 percent by 2015. To that end, one effort is the New Zero Energy Installations (NZEI), calling for installations to produce as much energy as they use in a year.  But even the U.S. Army is limited in investment options as funding for energy efficiency or renewable energy projects can be inconsistent. So the military is committed to working with utilities to reduce energy consumption, save money, and find creative sources of funding for energy projects. For utilities, working in conjunction with army installations can help increase profits, improve the company's image, and meet their own energy conservation goals.

Fort Carson, adjacent to Colorado Springs, has one the most active and longest-running installation sustainability programs, which has included a large emphasis on energy conservation issues. Stretched across 138,303-acres, Fort Carson has about 750 buildings with 12.865 million square feet of heated space. With a long-term goal to reach 100 percent conversion of renewable energy for facilities by 2027, Fort Carson has developed the largest solar photovoltaic project in the Army, a 2-MW ground-mounted array on 12 acres atop a former landfill. In addition, with the direction of installation staff support, Fort Carson is interested in building a 7-10 megawatt wind farm, though construction is pending.

What does this have to do with investing?  As we learned from the space program and other government research programs (remember that the Internet and GPS systems for example,  began as  projects of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency- DARPA), when government agencies begin procurement spending projects, private sector businesses benefit.  When the Pentagon decides that renewable energy is needed, whether for national security, budget pressures or troop safety reasons (and all three apply), defense spending decisions will impact the profitability of the suppliers chosen.

Let us hope that the rest of our government agencies take on the commitment to renewable energy that the Department of Defense has pioneered.

Posted: November 16, 2011