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

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Time for a Leader: Who'll take the Reins in DOD Industry Energy Reform?

The 4Q09 edition of the journal Defense Concepts published by the journal of Center for Advanced Defense Studies (CADS) has a nice energy chicken-or-the-egg piece. Titled, "Defense Industry Energy Reform: Incentives and Capabilities," it examines the roles of DOD and the Aerospace & Defense industry as potential catalysts in bringing new approaches to energy to DOD and its warfighters.

Written and and researched by Benjamin Power and Steve Rotchtin, this paper does a good job of unpacking the business case (or mission case) for changing course on energy, both within the DOD and among its tech and services suppliers. Power and Rotchkin note that neither side is taking the lead so far:
The DOD has yet to institute comprehensively the type of structural changes that are necessary to address the military’s strategic energy vulnerability. Following the DOD’s lead, defense contractors have not yet made a clearly defined shift in the type of equipment that they produce. There are some indications of interest in energy efficient military technology from industry leaders like General Electric and Lockheed Martin, but these companies have been reluctant to invest heavily in this technology without a demonstrable accompanying shift in preference at the DOD. With legal constraints restraining sales of technology to certain customers, private industry’s development and investment in this field has mirrored that of the DOD.
Clearly, it's the military's role to specify what it needs to industry, not the other way around, though industry, by showing what's possible, might get DOD thinking differently about what's possible.

Written before the nomination of Sharon Burke for the DOD Director of Operational Energy, perhaps we'll see DOD move out more assertively in the near future. Though the case can be made for not holding your breath ... who knows if and when she'll get the actual nod from this very distracted Congress.

Click here for this issue of Defense Concepts. Energy article begins on page 33.

Photo Credit: Mary Clark on Flickr

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Federal Energy Dynamic Duo: Navy and Ag Team on Energy Efficiency and Renewables

2009 was the year things really started to percolate, and though it's still January, DOD energy activities are off to a fast start. We'll be getting another energy audit update from Afghanistan soon, this time time focusing on Air Force ops and facilities.

Meanwhile, the Navy keeps up its leadership and momentum with an innovate partnership with one of the large Federal organizations that's most forward thinking on energy matters: the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Today Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) committing their folks to cooperation and collaboration on a number of fronts, including:
  1. Share technical, program management, and financial expertise in actions undertaken by the Parties in support of renewable energy projects, pilots, and programs
  2. Cooperate in developing a mutually reinforcing strategy and plans to implement renewable energy programs, pilots, and initiatives
  3. Collaborate on funding and execution of applicable elements to projects, to the extent permitted by existing regulations and authorities
  4. Support establishment of evaluation and implementation venues which develop advanced biofuels and renewable energy processes that are sustainable from an economic, social, as well as environmental perspective
It will be fascinating to watch what comes out of this unique relationship. Will be keeping an eye on it and will share updates as they become available.

Photo Credit: USN's 2nd Class Kevin S. O'Brien

Monday, January 18, 2010

2010 DOD Energy Planning Brief: Natural Gas Looking Good

We've talked about natural gas before, primarily to point out that the world is going to have access to a lot more of the stuff in the coming years thanks mainly to new discoveries and extraction methods. Here's an early 2010 natgas intro and update from guest blogger and Navy energy contractor, Vince Marshall.

1/19/01 "There's no such thing as a free lunch" Update: In the case of one of the new New York fields, a skirmish is brewing over possible extraction-related groundwater contamination. Here's an excerpt from oil & gas newspaper, Upstream:
At issue is the controversial process of shale gas extraction known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," in which a combination of chemicals, sand and water are blasted through rock to free trapped gas. Fracking is exempted from regulation under the US Clean Water Act. The natural gas industry argues that drilling poses no risk to drinking water, saying the chemicals are injected through layers of steel and concrete thousands of feet below aquifers. But opponents argue that toxic fracking chemicals are contaminating drinking water, citing numerous reports of private wells near gas installations having water that is discolored, foul tasting, or even flammable because of methane that has escaped from drilling operations.
-------Original Post Below----------

Natural gas is a preferred fuel for heating and power plant operations at many DOD locations worldwide. It is clean, comparatively simple to bring to process, and for the most part, readily accessible. As such, fluctuations in the supply and demand of this commodity severely impact operational budgets. For the next few years, there are strong market drivers that should help keep average gas prices relatively low. The first is Hydraulic Fracturing.

Hydraulic Fracturing, also referred to as “fracking”, is a process that injects high pressure fluids into shale and existing gas fields. This breaks up the underground rock and allows gas to be removed that otherwise would stay in the ground. The process increases production from fields that otherwise would be considered depleted. More on fracing here. Fracing is not a brand new technology but is increasingly being used to breathe new life into older gas fields. It does have a downside, though: groundwater contamination has prompted some local governments or prohibit its use.

Another development of note is the discovery of very large natural gas fields in Pennsylvania, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and elsewhere have substantially increased US gas inventories. In 2010, current gas inventories are approximately 15% higher than the rolling five year average. More on this here.

Of course, climate change legislation that would tax coal or fuel oil would drive consumers to natural gas and likely cause gas prices to increase. So far, coal and petroleum lobby groups have been effective in avoiding significant changes in their taxes and liability. From an early 2010 vantage, this is unlikely to change in the near future and will help keep natural gas prices low.

Perhaps this biggest short term driver has been the recent reduction in demand, which has increased inventories and helped keep prices low. New electrical generation from gas fired combustion turbines requires a long lead time and takes years to build and permit. It is believed that increases in demand will be more than offset by increases in gas production.

In sum, DOD personnel responsible for making long term energy decisions, like DLA's DESC, can look at today’s environment and plan with some certainty that natural gas prices will stay reasonably low over the next few years.

Photo Credit: sidewalk flying / Seth Sawyers @ Flickr

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Conference Alert: 5th Annual Military Energy Alternatives

Hard to believe the marcusevans conference folks had the foresight to be at this topic for so long, but it's true. Some great folks speaking at this one, and some pretty sweet workshops too. Here's your 4 Ws and an H:
  • What: 3 day conference on alt fuels for DOD
  • Where: Four Points Sheraton, Downtown DC
  • When: 19-21 January, 2010
  • Why: Driven by a huge surge in awareness last year related to fuel-convoy-related casualties, "The Pentagon, which traditionally has not made saving energy much of a priority, has launched initiatives to find alternative fuel sources, and currently has a diverse energy portfolio."
  • How: Register here
Sorry for the short notice. Thanks to Vince Marshall of the USN for bringing this to my attention. For more info, follow this link.

Photo Credit: Sheraton

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Army TARDEC's Energy Innovation on Display at Detroit Auto Show

The Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) is helping us ask better operational energy questions vis a vis tactical vehicles at the upcoming North American International Auto Show coming up in Detroit. Truly innovative, exciting stuff they're doing with hybrid electrics, alt fuels, energy management, stealth and more.

Here are some of the questions they're posing, verbatim from the press release:
  • "If this technology was successfully embedded and the necessary logistics and distribution issues addressed, how many fewer military vehicles would be hauling fuel?"
  • "As fuel consumption is reduced and military vehicles use on-board renewable energy capabilities, how many less soldiers would be on the road delivering fuel and at risk from insurgent attack?"
  • "How much longer could troops operate in austere environments if conventional fuel wasn't the challenge?"
Great way to kick off 2010. Would love to get (and pass on) a report from the show if at all possible ... know anyone who will be there?

Photo Credit: Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle (CERV) from the

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Conference Alert: USMC Expeditionary Power & Energy Symposium

Just like you think they would, the Marines are first out the door on energy in 2010, hitting the ground running in a couple of weeks with an energy conference in New Orleans. See specs below.

What: "Lightening the Load: Reducing the Footprint in the Expeditionary Environment"
Where: Marriott New Orleans
When: January 25 - 27, 2010
How: Click here for more info and to register

Where to stay now that the Marriott is full:

The Hotel Monteleone
214 Royal St., New Orleans, LA 70130
Front Desk: (504) 523-3341
Reservations: 1 (800) 217-2033

More guidance from NDIA: To get the discounted NDIA rate, ask for the "NDIA - Government" or "NDIA - Industry" room block. If you are arriving before Saturday, the 23rd, or checking out after Wednesday, the 27th, please call the hotel front desk number to book your stay.

Overview: Power and energy shortages and dependencies are posing a greater threat to national security and changing expeditionary warfare. Tomorrow’s Marine Corps will require greater power and energy efficiency and self-sufficiency to operate over long distances in austere environments. To meet these challenges, today’s Marine Corps is exploring and seeking a wide range of solutions to:
  • Lighten the load on today’s warfighters
  • Reduce its overall footprint in Afghanistan
  • Lessen energy consumption and dependence on fossil fuels
  • Achieve energy efficiency in combat zones and expeditionary environments
Get there if you can ...

Photo Credit: DVIDS on Flickr

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Important (and Promising) Defense Energy Leadership Announcement

DLA's loss is the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC's) gain, or perhaps it's no loss at all. One look at RADM Kurt Kunkel's resume and it's clear he's massively qualified to do this job, steeped as he is in logistics and operational energy matters. Challenges of the day include supporting fuel procurement and delivery to one of the most logistically remote parts of the planet: Afghanistan, as well as dealing with fuels price volatility and a DOD increasingly intent on reducing its dependence on fossil sources.

For those unfamiliar with DESC, it handles all fuels matters for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). And though it's headcount is modest, it's footprint is ginormous. As puts it:
The Center purchases more light refined petroleum product than any other single organization or company in the world. With a $3.5 billion annual budget, DESC procures nearly 110 million barrels of petroleum products each year. That’s enough fuel for 1,000 cars to drive around the world 4,620 times—or 115.5 trillion miles. products. The Center manages jet fuels, aviation gasoline, automotive gasoline, heating oils, power generation, naval propulsion fuels, lubricants, natural gas and coal. The key military fuels procured are: JP-5, a kerosene-based jet fuel primarily used for Navy carrier-based aircraft; JP-8, a kerosene-based fuel similar to Jet A-1, a commercial jet fuel; and F-76, a U.S. naval diesel similar to marine gas oil.
Excerpted press release here:
"Kunkel named next energy support center commander", by Dianne Ryder, 1/4/2010
Defense Logistics Agency Chief of Staff Navy Rear Adm. Kurt Kunkel hasbeen named the next commander of the Defense Energy Support Center. In his role as DESC commander, Kunkel will be responsible for providing the Department of Defense and other government agencies with comprehensive energy solutions and ensuring continuous worldwide energy support to America's warfighters. Prior to becoming DLA's chief of staff, Kunkel served as the deputy director for Operational Logistics, director of Logistics (J4), on the Joint Staff.
Photo Credit: Defense Logistics Agency