Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ministry of Defense Implementing Sustainability

Lest you think that the DOD is the only military org moving out on energy matters, here's the DOD Energy Blog's first guest post from "across the pond". There's a heck of a lot to sink your teeth into in this mega-post, and you'll note that climate change issues seem to be a bigger driver for the Brits than they are here in the US. Nevertheless, whether it's climate change or the mission enhancements that come from reduced reliance on fossil fuels, it all points us in the same direction. Big thanks to Elizabeth Quintana of the UK-based defense think tank RUSI for this most comprehensive introduction to energy work underway by our closet ally. Enjoy:

In 2007, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) published its Sustainable Development Action Plan, which outlined its road map to help meet ambitious government targets for 2010 and 2020. 2009 saw the publication of the Climate Change Strategy (PDF). This document looked at the impact of Climate Change on the military, described the MoD’s carbon footprint and explained in more detail what the department would need to do to meet the UK government’s carbon targets for 2010 and 2020.

The UK Defence Estate is the largest landowner in the country, owning approximately 1% of the UK across some 4000 sites. It produces just over half of the MoD’s carbon emissions and 70% of all carbon emissions across the government estate. It goes without saying that if the MoD fails to meet its targets, so does the rest of the government. The government’s targets for Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate (SOGE) state that the UK government will:
  • Reduce carbon emissions by 12.5% by 2010 and 30% by 2020, relative to 1999
  • Increase energy efficiency per meter squared by 15% by 2010 and 30% by 2020 relative to 1999
  • Source a minimum of 10 % electricity from renewable sources by 2010
  • Source a minimum of 15% electricity from combined heat and power by 2010
Targets for 2010 were met at the back end of last year and were largely achieved through efforts on the Defence Estate, however, most of the low hanging fruit have already been picked and there is a long way to go before the 2020 targets begin to look achievable. Sub-metering is being rolled out across the country to better identify areas of waste but the biggest problems at the moment are dealing with the legacy buildings and existing contracts that do not incentivise prime contractors to manage their portion of the estate in a sustainable manner. These contracts will run for another 3 years. In contrast to the US, there is no desire at present for any of the bases to be completely independent of the national grid and as smart grids are still a way off in the UK, there is less concern over cyber attack, although a number of the IT security firms like Detica are already warning both the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Environment and Climate Change of potential problems with the adoption of this technology.

Energy in Theatre (taken from evidence given to the House of Commons Defence Committee)
The Expeditionary Campaign Infrastructure Team in the MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation (DE&S) is already implementing measures to improve energy efficiency on Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). This work is focused on acquiring a better understanding of energy use and demand, with the aim of maximising efficiency. This includes: thermally lining tents & adding sun shades to reduce cooling loads; using Military Accommodation Bunkers as they are thermally dense and do not require air conditioning; installing power meters to identify where energy is being consumed; optimising power generator settings to match load and energy production. For planning purposes, the team has set an internal target to reduce energy consumption in operational accommodation by 50% per capita by 2013.

In addition, the MOD research programme, under the Science Innovation & Technology’s Capability Vision initiative, includes work to explore options for reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Phase 1 of this work, launched in May 09, places special emphasis on Forward Operating Bases and is exploring options for generating power by sustainable means and reducing energy consumption through the use of more efficient infrastructure. Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) technology is unsuitable for use in the harsh operating conditions of Afghanistan. This work is, therefore, looking at adapting or developing existing technologies to meet our needs. 10 research contracts have so far been placed (with more in the pipeline) covering such topics as: next generation solar collectors; portable and robust solar cells; portable and deployable wind turbines (noting that these would need to be effective in the light winds experienced in Afghanistan); advanced thermoelectric generators; and advanced energy storage devices.

Phase 2 of this work, which is scheduled for 2010/11, proposes a field trial of these technologies in a challenging environment, designed to simulate actual operating conditions. The trial also has potential for international collaboration as several NATO allies, including Canada, France and the US, have expressed interest in taking part and bringing their technology for trial.

Alternative Fuels
Concerns over Peak Oil, the price of fuel and energy security have prompted the MoD to look into alternative forms of jet fuel. The Royal Air Force doesn’t have as much buying power compared to the USAF (it uses about 1% UK’s aviation fuel as opposed to USAF, which uses approximately 10% all aviation fuel in the US) and so there is little perceived benefit in spending its resources in developing its own bio- or synfuel. The Defence Fuels Group has, however, kept a close eye on work done by the US Defence Energy Support Centre and the civil aviation community and has already developed standards for alternative fuels so that a replacement fuel could be dropped in if it was desirable.

Sustainable Procurement
While various environmental and safety standards have been in place for several years, the Sustainable Procurement office has only been open for business for the last 3 years. Led by Iain Brooks, an SP Strategy has been launched and is now mandated as part of the procurement process, an MoU has been signed with all prime contractors and the SP Office is working with the Carbon Disclosure Project to map the carbon footprint of the entire defence supply chain. It is also reaching out overseas to understand how other countries have organised themselves and exchange best practice.

Interested in finding out more?
These programmes and others will be presented at the RUSI International Initiatives in Alternative Energy and Sustainability for the Military conference on 16-17 February in London. If you can’t make the trip, the conference will be broadcast securely over the web. For more information or to register for your ticket or e-ticket, please visit

Photo Credit (Solar powered runway equipment in Afghanistan): UK MOD


Tina said...

There are currently two teams, one in the MOD and one in Defence Estates who develop sustainability programs. I would much appreciate if you redirect me to the information on current MOD policies. Regards.

David said...

The information is pretty valuable. I would like to know more about MOD policies and sustainability programs. That sounds to me encouraging!!!