Monday, September 28, 2009

In Which I Take Issue with those Taking Issue with CNA's "Powering America's Defense" Energy Report

Nothing furthers understanding better than a healthy critique of a seemingly sound argument. The counter argument will either surface errors, factual or logical, which is for the good, or it's going to miss the mark and if anything further reify the positions made in the original piece. In the latest issue of National Defense magazine, I contend the authors of "National Security and Energy: Setting the Right Priorities" accomplish the latter.

I won't subject you to a point by point analysis ... this isn't a new piece of critical legislation. But briefly, the authors seek to undermine some of the foundational assumptions of the CNA report, that:
  • the US uses too much oil (by faulting the rhetoric)
  • that the US is too dependent on foreign oil, particularly from the Middle East (by saying we have a big economy and that our allies depend on it too)
  • that the report's characterization of climate change risk is not nuanced enough and should allow for regional variations and temperature change, not just rise
They then abruptly pivot to say the answer to all of the above is hybrid electric cars for the nation, and hybrid electric vehicles for the military and that our grid can't handle waves of electric cars or renewables. To me, that's way too big a leap, and is neither suggested by the title of the article, nor supported by the facts / evidence they bring to bear. The authors also point to "clean coal" as part of our energy mix; a term which for me signals the triumph of marketing over substance.

Don't get me wrong, I've cited and linked to dozens of energy related articles in National Defense, including some solid ones by Frodl and Manoyan, but IMHO, this one does little but solidify my initial reading that the CNA did a great job of summing up some super-complex challenges facing DOD and suggesting some potential ways forward.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Conference Alert: NDU Energy Security Challenge

It may be more information on energy security than you can handle. And it may be coming up too soon to make arrangements. And there may not be enough room to get in even if you wanted to. But still I thought you should know ...

The National Defense University (NDU)  is hosting a two day event titled "Energy Security: A Global Challenge," touching on almost every aspect of energy security. It's next week, 29-30 Sep 2009 at NDU, within Fort McNair on the south side of DC. As a reader of this blog, you'd be crazy not to give it a shot.

Just in case, here's a link to more info.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

DIACAP a Good Fit for DOD Smart Grid Security?

... and if so, is it being used in the field as DOD rolls out its first few Smart Grid and micro grid pilots, and if so by whom?

The DOD refers to much of cyber security as Information Assurance (IA). And thes primary policy document that instructs the services on which IA controls to implement and how to get their security program right is called the DOD Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Program, or DIACAP. Here's a short Wikipedia DIACAP summary for you. While great work is being done at NIST and elsewhere right now on Smart Grid security standards, DIACAP seems like a logical starting point for securing Smart Grid devices and systems at DOD facilities.

So far I've received no answers to this question from folks I thought would know in the Department. I've heard security minded folks in the energy industry reference DOD practices as inspiration for some of their cyber security strategies, but have yet to connect the dots. I like to connect dots, so this is a point of frustration.

DOD Energy Blog Broadcasting from GridWeek 2009

Jack and I have landed in DC for GridWeek 2009.  We'll be pushing and pulling on vendors who say they've got the Smart Grid, and particularly Smart Grid security, all figured. out. Stay tuned for updates and commentary of all kinds.

Photo: American Architecture

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Storage is the Smart Grid and Renewables Missing Link

... that's according to Rick Bush and Gene Wolf writing recently in Transmission and Distribution World, who note that electricity has characteristics that make it uniquely challenging to manage:
Electricity is the only commodity simultaneously produced and consumed. As such, it requires a very sophisticated real-time, just-in-time balancing act of supply and demand that is dependent on variable end-user demands and the continually changing weather system. Today's electrical grid operates effectively without storage, but it is severely challenged. The grid would be more efficient and reliable if it incorporated cost-effective ways of storing electrical energy.
Even more recently (as in, tonight at MIT) at the opening forum for a new X-Prize in Energy Storage, I gained some additional insight on electricity. Joining the X-Prize foundation's Chair/CEO Peter Diamandis were Internet and computer legend Bob Metcalfe, now of Polaris Ventures, and Hemant Taneja, the hyper-active energy-focused managing partner from VC firm General Catalyst. (All three of these guys it should be noted, are MIT alums. Secret of success must be time logged drinking and thinking at the Muddy Pub.)

Metcalfe likes to use the formation and development of the Internet as a model for the young Smart Grid he calls the Energy Internet, or Enernet (presentation here). Tonight he said something that clicked for me:
The early Internet was completely synchronized and had no storage.
Sometimes the comparison seems a little forced, but usually it's pretty effective. But this point really made the connection almost visceral. We'll see if the X-Prize carrot, on top of other R& D going on everywhere, can help propel the storage-less Smart Grid out of its infancy.

Wait: one more thing! A Energy Storage Summit is coming to DC next month sponsored by IQPC (thanks to Chris Boucher for the heads-up). Details here.
Photo: MIT

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Peak Oil Point/Counterpoint

Haven't heard as much from Raytheon as we have from some of the other large integrators, but that may change soon. Recently you got a dose on this blog of Peak Oil skepticism from Michael Lynch, now here's Raytheon's rank Prautsch with a bit of a rebuttal. Citing stats from 2006's "Black Gold - The New Frontier in Oil for Investors" written by energy reporter George Orwel (not the famous British author - there are 2 l's in his last name as you recall), Prautsch recommends the book for its evaluation of the consequences of an "oil peak", the introduction of alternative fuels, oil price dynamics, and where oil investors are heading in the future. Here's more from Prautsch:
Shell geologist Marion Hubbert mathematically calculated a US Oil peak in production in 1969. He collected data on how much oil had been discovered and produced in the lower 48 states  from 1901 until 1956. His data showed that US oil reserves had risen rapidly from 1901-1930 and then slowed with an oil production drop at a rate of approximately 2 percent per year after 1969. The truth of the matter is that he was right.
More recently geologists and economists have been debating over predictions on a global scale using Hubbert's Curve. World-scale data spreads a complex series of  factors and  opinions that are based on founded and unfounded reserves, OPEC leverage or manipulation, new technologies to optimize production, alternative and nuclear fuel offsets, systematic overbooking of reserves to inflate valuation, and speculative demand from developing nations. Based upon interviews with numerous oil companies,Orwel concludes that we have a best case of 30 years. This best case is driven by economic drivers prevailing in the above factors. Some worst case predictions (geologically) passed us last year as the possible peak.
My personal conclusion is that we have a finite oil capacity on this planet and that the appetites of India, China and other developing nations are going to knock us off of our predictive optimism, making a peak of 2021-2026 actually look good. Even with electric propulsion, renewables, biofuels, and all the other energy sources in play, we are still going to come up shallow on crude oil.
OK, I'm going to leave this topic for now. Oil seems have settled into a bit of a groove lately near $70/barrel as the world waits to see how much of a global recovery we're going to have how soon. Feels like we're a million miles away from last summer's $147/barrel price peak and the steep descent to $30/barrel after that. It's not quite "Remember the Alamo," but you should definitely remember the volatility.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

These are Still the Early Days for Aviation Biofuels

Will keep this one short and sweet. Seems like balanced coverage is the order of the day. Compare the realistic tone and details of this short article in with the rah-rah tone of some of last year's Air Force's messaging on testing and certifying all of its planes on a 50/50 blend of J-P8 and synthetic fuel derived from natural gas. If I'm a betting person, I'm betting that biofuels are not going to make a dent in Naval Aviation's petroleum-based demand any time soon.

On the other hand, I'd want them to keep working on improving biofuels and to collaborate with USAF and everyone else for that matter. A significant breakthrough or two in this domain could really change the game.

Photo: US Navy

Thursday, September 10, 2009

USN Moving Out on AMI and Smart Grid

Had a chance to speak with Bill Anderson, the Navy's Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Project Manager who's leading a worldwide team of over fifty engineers, laying the AMI foundation towards the Navy's future Smart Grid infrastructure. For background on AMI, click here. Anderson described his project as having several phases:
  • 2-4 years for building out the AMI infrastructure, then,
  • 2-3 years for putting the rest of the Smart Grid components in place
He emphasized that as they seek to enable the "utility of the future," he and his team realize that they are laying the foundation for a "yet to be defined" US Navy Smart Grid. I like that this team openly acknowledges that they don't know enough yet to describe the details of the ultimate system they're building, and that some key challenges, like energy storage, remain to be solved.

On the security side, networks, comm gear and devices are all being held to the same standards the Navy uses for the rest of its IT operations, including the the DOD Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process (DIACAP)'s certification and accreditation processes. These standards are DoDI 8510.1 which binds DOD users to the information assurance (IA) controls defined in DoDD 8500.1 and DoDI 8500.2. It would be interesting to see how tuned in the Navy is to the Smart Grid standards work being done by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Stay tuned as Anderson's team completes its initial AMI pilot at Naval Base Ventura County and the Navy moves out on the program's next steps.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Seeking Lessons from the September 3rd Taliban Tanker Incident in Kunduz

The news cycle had come and gone on this report of Taliban-hijacked fuel tankers and NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) attack on them which destroyed them, plus the hijackers, plus a large number of civilians gathered to get a share of the fuel provided by the oh-so-generous Taliban who "only have Afghan peoples' best interests in mind." Actually, it's still in the headlines as a NY Times reporter seeking to cover the aftermath was just taken hostage and rescued.

Of course, this incident is about energy, but it's also about so much more. I couldn't figure out how to tackle it until I received this missive from a friend in DOD who is tuned in to such matters:
Talk about a potpourri of issues ... vulnerable energy supply lines, likely third country nationals owning the original fuel trucks, close air support rules of engagement, host country populations needing energy, and now civilian casualties. 
Now ISAF is going to investigate how this all unfolded, with particular attention to the civilian casualties. Takes the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel (FBCF) to a whole new level, wouldn't you say?

Monday, September 7, 2009

DOD Energy Blog Interview with Amory Lovins - 5 Part Series (part 5)

In this final installment of the DOD Energy Blog/Amory Lovins mid 2009 interview, we come full circle to one of the two primary findings of the 2008 Defense Science Board (DSB) Task Force report on Energy: that bases put way too much faith in the reliability of the national electrical grid. Especially in times of war or terrorism that targets critical US infrastructure, bases need a Plan B that'll keep them up and running for weeks or months or longer, not the day or two that seems to be the norm at present.

Previous questions in this series have focused on two new energy-related systems traits Lovins has been championing recently: endurance and resilience, primarily from a mobile platform perspective (e.g., planes, tanks and jeeps, ships, etc.). This question takes one of them, resilience, and turns it to the above mentioned challenge of base dependency on the electrical grid, also known as the "brittle grid" problem.

A word of caution. It usually behooves a blogger to keep his work short and accessible, so busy readers can get a quick bite of hopefully helpful info and be back to other tasks in a flash. Well, that will not be the case with this post. Nevertheless, fans and followers of the influential Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and its outspoken founder will find there's a lot to sink their teeth into on this final part of the series.

Question 5) It seems the Resilience vector promotes traits similar to the benefits often ascribed to micro grids. Is that right? And is Resilience one response to the Brittle Grid problem?
Lovins: Resilience, said our DSB report, "combines efficient energy use with more diverse, dispersed, renewable supply—turning the loss of critical missions from energy supply failures (by accident or malice) from inevitable to near-impossible." I first described the design elements of resilience in Chapter 13 of Brittle Power: Energy Strategy for National Security (a 1982 report to DoD that remains probably the definitive unclassified synthesis on energy-related critical infrastructure. What it predicted, and worse, has now come true. In 1984 I wrote:
These brittle devices [over-centralized energy systems] are supposed to form the backbone of America's energy supplies well into the 21st century—a period likely to bring increasing uncertainty, surprise, unrest, and violence. The U.S. cannot afford vulnerabilities that so alter the balance between large and small groups in society as to erode not only military security but also the freedom and trust that underpin constitutional government.
Here's how I described the design philosophy of resilience back then:
An inherently resilient system, it should include many relatively small, fine-grained elements, dispersed in space, each having a low cost of failure. These substitutable components should be richly interconnected by short, redundant links….Failed components or links should be promptly detected, isolated, and repaired. Components need to be so organized that each element can interconnect with the rest at will but stand alone at need, and that each successive level of function is little affected by failures or substitutions at a subordinate level. Systems should be designed so that any failures are slow and graceful. Components, finally, should be understandable, maintainable, reproducible at a variety of scales, capable of rapid evolution, and societally compatible.
Resilience can be achieved by design with comparable or, often, lower capital and operating cost. (For example, I've done it in my own photovoltaic-powered house: the lights don't flicker when we pull the plug on the grid. nor when we plug back in.) It's now governed by standards like IEEE 1547. In other words, COTS hardware now permits electric resilience at a wide range of scales. 
As DOD Energy Blog readers probably know, the DSB report recommended that at least the 584 CONUS bases eliminate their ~98+% reliance on the brittle power grid, and for their mission continuity, use their power efficiently and produce it onsite in netted islandable microgrids that also serve the surrounding communities where many of their people live. (This was already DoD policy under DoDI 1470.11 sec 5.2.3 but had been ignored.) Pacific Northwest Lab has found that ~90% of bases can do this, often with renewables, and often to economic advantage. A few bases have made a good start, but much more coherent policy and execution are needed.
There you have it: the case Lovins has been making for renewables-augmented Smart and micro grids for 25 years. And here we are today trying to decide if the time is right, and if so, how fast to push versus the thousand other priorities facing DOD and the country at present. Seems to me senior leadership is more attuned to the urgency of energy issues than at any time in the past, with the possible exception of a brief moment during the OPEC oil embargo of the 1973. Lovins learned and retained key lessons from that event and they have informed his work ever since.

The rest of us, less diligent, have taken energy for granted for too long and now the need for change has arrived with a sense of urgency that is surprising to some. Regardless, let's ensure we get off our butts and update our bases' power systems to ensure they are ready to fulfill critical missions for times when we need them most.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Peak Oil, Shmeak Oil says Woods

I subscribe to Peak Oil theory, which says there's a finite amount of oil in the ground and that we're approaching the time when the amount we extract is going to begin to decline. But because it's complicated and hard to prove, I could be wrong, and you need to see this.

Thanks to Thomas Barnett (whose blog I read daily) for posting this piece. Highlighting energy consultant Michael Lynch's recent case that Peak Oil theorists are wrong and that there's plenty of global Texas Tea for the foreseeable future, Barnett knows is going incite a (not necessarily quiet) riot. Regardless, we need input on all sides of this most central of debates.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Deloitte on DOD Energy and Dough

Combined with the acquisition of my day-time company and the tumult that's ensued, there have been so many relevant energy reports released lately that I've found myself struggling to digest and post them on this blog in a timely manner. Struggled unsuccessfully, you may have noticed.

OK, that ends now with this link to a good one from Deloitte with experts from inside and outside DOD. Some of it is familiar stuff, some new. But as the cliche goes, pictures trump words (or something like that).

At the gut level, the slide above tells you all you need to know about the future of global gasoline demand. And not just demand - the analysis lays out all the drivers to show that going forward, energy of all kinds is going to cost more, both to DOD, as well as to industry and consumers. Anyone still in favor of status quo policy for DOD fuels? I don't think so. More on that coming pronto in posts on some other solid DOD and energy reports from mid-2009.

Slide from: DOD Energy Mandates - Key Considerations for the Financial Management Community, May 2009