Friday, May 29, 2009

Billings Joins Industry ... Remains Energized

From the "where are they now" department:

Kevin Billings, whose words and wisdom have been cited more than once on the DOD Energy Blog, has just left his Air Force energy exec post to join Lockheed Martin's Energy Services team. In his new position as "Director of Federal Energy Efficiency Programs" Billings will wear business development and operations hats related to Lockheed's Federal energy savings performance contracts.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

DOD Energy Stimulus Transparency

OMB has put DOD's energy stimulus plans online in one convenient location, and I've added the link in the right sidebar of the DEB under "DOD Energy Plans & Reports". They've included an RSS button so you can subscribe to catch changes if you wish.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

President Carter on Energy Security: 2009 Style

It's difficult for some to remember President Jimmy Carter as a hard-charging Chief Executive, but that's exactly what he was when it came to US Energy Security. So much so that he was lauded by Retired Air Force General Chuck Wald at CNA's "Powering America's Defense" report release presser last week. One week prior Carter testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on US energy policy and had some interesting things to say. In short, they added up to this: we've been here before, we made huge progress, and then we got complacent and let it slip away.

Here's how his testimony began:
Long before my inauguration, I was vividly aware of the interrelationship between energy and foreign policy. U.S. oil prices had quadrupled in 1973 while I was governor, with our citizens subjected to severe oil shortages and long gas lines brought about by a boycott of Arab OPEC countries. Even more embarrassing to a proud and sovereign nation was the secondary boycott that I inherited in 1977 against American corporations doing business with Israel. We overcame both challenges, but these were vivid demonstrations of the vulnerability that comes with excessive dependence on foreign oil.
I repeat for emphasis: "the vulnerability that comes with excessive dependence on foreign oil." Click here to see how it ended. Strong (and highly topical) stuff.

Photo: NewScientist

Friday, May 22, 2009

Upbeat Biofuels Report Retorts Previous Gloomy Post

Last week this post cast a pall over the prospects of the biofuels industry ever playing a significant role in offsetting DOD's fossil fuel needs. This week there's better sounding news coming from the same conference, this time focusing on a better, non-food source crop called "energy cane" and highlighting the progress of a co. previously covered on this blog, LS-9.

Still, until evidence proves otherwise, you have to be skeptical about biofuels reaching the SCALE where they could be considered an energy security game changer for DOD.

Photo: North Queensland Register

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Citation Series from CNA's "Powering America's Defense" Report & Conference

From former Admiral, Space Shuttle Commander and NREL Director Richard Truly this time:
We've put very inefficient systems deep into [Iraq and Afghanistan]. As a result we end up with long lines of fuel trucks driving in. And we have to protect those trucks with soldiers and with other vehicles. [This problem] is well recognized by a lot of the troops. They've seen their friends getting hurt because of poor energy choices we've made in the past.
Re: Truly, it's amazing how much some individuals are capable of accomplishing in one lifetime. Maybe we could help pay him back a little by delivering policy and technology solutions to the above stated challenge. Now.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

USN Evades Pirates ... I Don't Get This

Pirates shoot at a U.S. Navy ship and instead of blowing them out of the water, the Navy ship "evades" them for over an hour. Is this "turn the other cheek" taken to a new extreme? Do you understand what's going on? If so, please tell me. Article here.

Citations from CNA's "Powering America's Defense" Report & Conference

Over the next few days I'm going to feed you a series of nutritious quotes and citations from yesterday's event. The first one is from Senator Richard Lugar, in support of CNA's work:
Energy security is national security. Oil precipitates conflict, it ties the hands of those seeking peace, and it puts the lives of our soldiers at greater risk. I strongly agree with the stark conclusion of CNA's Military Advisory Board (MAB): anyone serious about American military and diplomatic strength must be serious about energy. 
Congress, Senior DOD leadership and the President are increasingly in alignment on energy, as you'll see in subsequent posts from CNA. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 18, 2009

CNA Powering America's Defense

Had the privilege to be in DC and attend this morning's release of the CNA Military Advisory Board (MAB's) report: Powering America's Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security. From my vantage point, it was the highest powered group of folks gathered in one place on this topic since the Admiral Moorer military energy security conference I attended last December at NDU.

And in some ways this group, comprised entirely of retired generals and admirals, with the leadership of the MAB's outstanding Executive Director Sherri Goodman from CNA, had an aggregate of experience and wisdom on energy security matters beyond anything seen before outside the DSB Task Force reports on energy. In fact, one of the MAB members, Admiral Richard Truly, was co-chair of of the seminal 2001 DSB energy report. But's it's 2009, and though I'll be posting in more detail on this soon, I highly recommend you read the just-released work from this fine team.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

DOD Needs a Better View of NREL

And not just DOD, but DOD at least. Here's why it's worth getting to know the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) better, according to a recent entrepreneur in residence:
First, NREL truly is “The National Renewable Energy Lab”. There is more breadth and depth of renewable energy and energy efficiency knowledge at NREL than any other institution on the planet. This alone is worth the price of admission.
Pretty impressive, and potentially quite helpful to an energy hungry DOD. So what's the hold-up? I think those familiar with government labs will have have seen this movie before:
Unfortunately, the admission price has never been posted and there have only been secret alley entrances with secured doors to gain access to the lab. The lesson here is that new interfaces need to be developed by the lab to better expose its collective knowledge and translate it to the marketplace more effectively (thus EIR and other programs).
Time to get busy. You can find the full write-up here.

Photo: DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

One Highly Successful DOD Building

I don't often write about facilities energy issues unless discussing the brittle grid problem and the need for smart grid technology and islanding micro grids. However, I'm willing to make an exception when something really good comes along.

Best known for being home to STRATCOM, Offutt AFB now has another claim to fame. It's the Air Force Weather Agency's new HQ, and it's the first USAF building to be certified at the LEED Gold level. Those unfamiliar with the massively successfully LEED sustainable building initiative can find out more here.

No, this one is not a net zero facility (meaning it still requires energy to make it run). But it does use new technologies and other creative design factors to cut its expected energy appetite in half. Multiple that type of efficiency through the tens of thousands of facilities DOD currently maintains and you can begin to imagine the impact. Click here for the the award summary for this great new structure.

Photo: USAF Weather

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Biofuel Industry Malaise

Renewables, energy efficiency measures and the smart grid are all important parts of the facilities energy solution, but what's going to help vehicles? The Army recently contracted for thousands of low speed electric vehicles, and hybrid electrics are improving every year, but for most transportation requirements, fuel remains the fuel of choice (sorry).

Hence, it's unfortunate that current efforts to create non fossil based fuels are foundering.  This dispatch is from a recent gathering of biofuels experts in San Francisco:
Many at the conference expressed concern and discouragement. Companies that were once darlings of Wall Street have gone bankrupt. Dozens of ethanol plants have closed as oil prices dropped. Many promising second generation plants cannot get built due to lack of project financing. People with the money see the risk as too high. There continue to be zero commercial scale (20-million gallon per year and bigger) cellulosic ethanol plants, despite past glowing press releases that declared that they would now be running.
All I can say is: Go DARPA. Go DOE/NREL-Chevron CRADA. Go MIT et al. Don't give up on this please.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Smart Grid is a Beast

For those of you catching the occasional flash that something new is coming to your utility bill, here's a nice narrative description that may bring it to life for you. However, as someone who's been looking at all the moving parts of what's called the smart grid, including the security considerations, I can't help but feel it wouldn't be hyperbole to call it the mother of all projects. It's so complicated and requires so many different engineering disciplines it's not even funny. OK, that makes it super interesting too.

For those who are interested in learning more, the Smart Grid News site is a good resource for getting (and keeping) up to speed with the key players and developments.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Something Practical: Let there be Lights

Not all DOD Energy stories are about fuel efficient jets or international intrigue, pipelines and pirates. Sometimes, all you need is a better bulb ... or should I say, diode. Enter Cyberlux :
Within the Department of Defense (DoD) service branches, the specific Cyberlux ArcLight system configuration is designed to illuminate portable deployable shelters for both 'command and control' and living environments. This system configuration includes features such as multi-color and infrared lighting, rapid setup and light-weight portability, and extended battery operation if electrical power is unavailable.
With 30% better energy efficiency and 10X the lifespan of what they're replacing, Cyberlux's LED-based solutions are well positioned to serve a DOD intent on getting leaner, meaner and greener.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

From the SGS Blog: A Suitable Smart Grid Security Standards Dev Process

To all colleagues working on the formulation of effective security policy for the emerging smart grid, here's something from Jack Danahy I think you'll really like ...
JD: For those of you who are security devotees and are looking for a new place to offer some value, and for those of you who are dedicated to the Smart Grid and are worried about security, I'd like to draw your attention to the draft Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) Smart Grid Policy Paper issued in March, and closing on comments this coming Monday, May 11th. Admittedly it might be a bit close to the wire for those of you looking to add your own views to the process, but as this is really only a draft, I figured that both communities would do well to be aware of what is coming in this potential policy so that you will be better prepared to think and act on it.
Click through for the full article: Foreseeing Federal Policy for Smart Grid Security

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Air Force and OSD Seeking to Define "Energy Security"

This project seems to be at the early stages, but I believe it's potentially very valuable to the Department. What is energy security? It sounds dumb, but why do you need it?  What goes wrong when you don't have it? 

For me it's a direction and not a destination that can ever be reached, certainly not on a national level. But what types of things can DOD do to increase its energy security? Not to get all French on you, but the answers to that question are the raison d'etre of this blog.

So here's some of the early discussion led by Air Force energy executive Mike Aimone, with reference to an earlier definition by OSD. I'd be happy to hear your definitions and will certainly pass them on to the right folks.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cautionary Words for Energy Tech Optimists

Sometimes you can get caught up in the relentless optimism of new energy evangelists like Better Place's Shai Agassi and believe that a totally different clean tech future is right around the corner. In fact, you want to get caught up.Yet as with almost endeavor, a balanced perspective is best for the long haul.

This post is from approx 6 months ago when oil was at $80 a barrel. Consider it now at $50 ... and how it applies at all other, highly volatile price points in the future. The words are to venture capitalists (VCs) (most often steeped in IT and internet models) and their investors ... but they matter to all of us including DOD:
Be forewarned, you do not have a comparative advantage here. The oil men invented risk taking, AND risk management. The oil men are bigger, faster, smarter, richer, have more scientists and more entreprenuerial spirit than you, AND they know energy.
VC's tend to believe that new technologies will always trump old processes, and they often don't fully grok how very different the energy business is:
In energy, there is no disruptive technology, only disruptive policy that makes some technologies look disruptive after the fact. In energy, the risk is in the scale up, not the R&D, and the end application is so massive, so capital intensive, and so utterly dependent on commodity prices, that you can't invest in it like you invest in IT. It takes longer, 10x as much money, and the ante up to play the game for one project is the size of your largest fund. At scale, there is no capital efficient strategy in energy.
Don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but it's important to keep the gigantic scale and enormous experience of the oil industry in mind at all times. And yet still push for change.