Monday, April 4, 2011

Energy Innovation: Operations and Installations

This past week I attended the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation hosted conference entitled "Operation Energy Innovation: A Stronger, Smarter Fighting Force". The intent for the program was to examine how "DOD can play a prime role in accelerating cleantech development".

The agenda kicked off with a brief hello from Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA). A recent article by Congressman Forbes highlighted his concern that DOD should have their feet held to the fire on energy projects. Simply being “green” is not enough. He cited one Navy project that apparently had a 477 year payback period. I am not sure that anyone is DOD is doing “art for art sake”. His message was that DOD could play a role in innovation, but its job was not to bridge the valley of death for developers. He is a big fan of the ExFOB, but who isn’t? They don’t write policy. They just get stuff done.

Congressman Forbes was followed by Senator Mark Udall who talked about his intent to reintroduce the Department of Defense Energy Security Act when its co-sponsor Congresswoman Gabby Gifford returns to the House. Congresswoman Gifford is a great friend to DOD Energy and we wish her a speed recovery. The goals of the act are to reduce DOD reliance on oil on the battlefield; tasks DOD to plan better for energy use; decrease electricity use at bases; and develop onsite renewables. The devil is in the details and the appropriations.

After the micro remarks by the members of Congress, the panel kicked off with each member making brief statements followed by a very informative Q&A. Matt Hourihan of ITIF led off with comments on his paper , co-authored with Matthew Stepp. The document remakes the case for DOD energy security with plenty of example of how DOD has “led the way” in technology development. The two condition necessary for this as stipulated in the paper are that Congress must provide “responsible support” for DOD efforts and that DOD must continue its energy security development in a “collaborative and information sharing manner”. Not completely sure what this mean. Will develop the situation!

These remarks were followed by Dr. Dorothy Robyn, DUSD, Installations and Environment and Ms. Sharon Burke, ASD, Operational Energy Plans and Programs. The gist of their remarks was about DOD’s role in innovation in the energy space. Both made it clear that DOD was in the game, but that any effort would have to show direct energy security returns and would have to be economically sustainable. Ms. Burke commented on the fact that she had an Energy Innovation Fund, but not much about where it will go. She promised that more detail would be available when her operational energy strategy was finished staffing and published. We look forward to that.

Dr. Robyn talked about the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDEP) and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) efforts to develop and promote an Installation Test Bed. Dr. Jeff Marqusee, the director of ESTCP was called to the mike several times to discuss the program. The energy topics for which proposals will be solicited are:

  1. Smart Micro-grids and Energy Storage to Increase Energy Security on DoD Installations
  2. Renewable Energy Generation on DoD Installations
  3. Advanced Component Technologies to Improve Building Energy Efficiency
  4. Advanced Building Energy Management and Control
  5. Tools and Processes for Design, Assessment and Decision-making Associated with Energy Use and Management

Selection of winners in this year’s process will be announced in October 2011. For more detail, check here.

I commend the panel and ITIF for leaving a large chunk of time for questions. I further commend all for not dodging the tough ones and for having SMEs on hand where required. I didn't like all the answers, but I liked that we got to ask the questions.

As we await the release of the Operational Energy Strategic Plan we have to keep the organization of DOD in mind. The office of the Secretary of Defense has responsibility for developing policy, how things ought to be done. The Services have Title 10, U.S. Code responsibilities. It is their purview to organize, man, equip, and train the forces necessary for the combatant commanders and they get the final vote on what gets fielded. For the Strategic Plan to have a lasting impact it must assign responsibilities for tasks, provide the authorities (resources) required and a mechanism for accountability. These will have to be reflected in the Services' execution plans. And Ms. Burke gets to grade those plans in her annual report to Congress, so that should close the circle. It will be interesting to watch the wrangling. Only the Marines have an organization chartered to do operational energy at this time. That would appear to be a big leg up in the resource restricted environment in which all the Services now must operate. Dan Nolan

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