Wednesday, January 26, 2011
"The fact is that energy is what enables us to be decisive on the battlefield," said Col. Paul E. Roege, special assistant to the energy director at the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC). His comments came during a conversation with researchers, industry representatives and other federal officials hosted at the Brookings Institution (from nextgov.com). Paul Roege is one of the most credible voices in DOD energy with an MBA and PhD from MIT. He has served in DOE labs as well as helping write Army doctrine on energy. His message? DOD needs outcome based policies, not a list of prescriptive requirements.
Roege’s work with ARCIC helped produce the Army’s 20 year outlook for power and energy. In his discussion at Brookings, COL Roege envisioned the wireless transmission of electricity, a “hot spot” for energy. For many of us this is crazy talk, but who remembers setting up their first wireless internet router? When guys like Roege talk crazy, we should listen.
In the article reporting this, anonymous members of the newly renamed Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Policy (formerly the DOEPP, now the ASDOEPP) declined to specify when their mandated strategy would be published. Due in December 2010, I am hoping it was held up make sure all the policies would be outcome based vice prescriptive. Standing by for action!
The use of biofuels by the Military has been a hot button for some time. Now CNN and many other sources are reporting on a RAND Corps study that says that there is no direct military benefit from alternative fuels research. The Congressionally mandated study says that "There is no direct benefit to the Department of Defense or the services from using alternative fuels rather than petroleum-derived fuels,"
The study directed by SecDef and required by the NDAA 2010 looked at several topics:
- Opportunities to produce alternative fuels in a way that reduces lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, including the use of clean energy alternatives such as nuclear, solar, and wind energies for powering the conversion processes.
- The military utility of concepts for production of alternative fuels in or close to the theater of military operations compared to domestic production.
- The goals and progress of research, testing, and certification efforts by the Department of Defense related to the use of alternative fuels in military vehicles and aircraft.
- The prospects for commercial production of non-petroleum military fuel
The study found that the most promising near term option was Fischer-Tropsch fuels, but that they provided significant challenge in their production of green house gases. It also questioned whether “appreciable amounts of hydrotreated renewable oils can be affordably and cleanly produced within the United States or abroad”. The FT method was developed by the Germans and exploited by South Africa, not because they were concerned about green house gases, but because they could not secure their supply of oil.
It allowed that if we had electric or hydrogen driven vehicles, we could use nuclear, wind and solar energy sources. This is kind of like say, “We could have ham and eggs, if we had ham……or eggs”. Finally, they found that the U.S. military producing fuel forward using compact fuel production systems is not a good idea. Of course, not producing fuel is already U.S military policy. As the Air Force has said, we buy fuel, not make it. That being said, if one of the countries in the ‘Stans was making a DOD certified biofuel I assume we might buy that. Nice economic boost for those supporting the U.S. efforts.
Rand concluded that, “Defense Department goals for alternative fuels in tactical weapon systems should be based on potential national benefits, since the use of alternative, rather than petroleum-derived, fuels offers no direct military benefits”. Essential, they are saying that DOD should be involved in biofuels for strategic reasons, not tactical. They laud the efforts of the Services in testing and certifying fuels. DOD efforts far outpace what the commercial world is doing.
The Navy has already found exception with the study. “Unfortunately, we were not engaged by the authors of this report,” said Thomas W. Hicks, deputy assistant secretary of energy for the Navy. “We don’t believe they adequately engaged the market,” he said, adding, “This is not up to RAND’s standards.” They have been actively engaged with the industry and see the potential for domestic use. The Navy Secretary’s goal of 8 million barrels of biofuels by 2020 may shape that perspective, but someone has to think big!
I agree that this is a strategic effort. If a component of energy security is access to oil, then home grown solutions are a step along the way. Just as ethanol was a step, drop in replacement fuels are a step that should lead us to the final alternative forms of locomotion for our transportation sector. Whether that is electricity or hydrogen, the market will tell, but by developing the certification processes, DOD will shape the commercial effort that can help fossil fuel poor nations around the world. Petro dictators, beware!
Thursday, January 13, 2011
BG(R) Steve Anderson will tell you that the cleanest, cheapest, most secure electron is the one you don’t use. As the former senior logistician for GEN Petraeus in Iraq, Steve was instrumental in finding energy efficient ways to lower demand, thus reducing convoys and casualties. In today’s NYT, Anderson takes the military to task for failing to take advantage of proven energy conservation measures. He lays the failure at the feet of “passive leadership, lack of accountability, competing priorities”. Steve is not known for sugar coating things and this piece does not disappoint
This is a must read and must act on editorial. When the ODOEPP issues its 180 day report, I hope they include this. People and organizations change for one of two reasons: overwhelming opportunity or overwhelming threat. Otherwise they just maintain the status quo. If saving lives is not a great enough opportunity, I can’t imagine what the overwhelming threat would have to be.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Got a note from folks in the know regarding the ExFOB. We recently mentioned the deployment of a Marine company outfitted with renewable energy systems. First reports are in and they are good! Please see the below. Well done, Marines!
Friday we received feedback from India 3/5, the unit that deployed with the systems we identified from ExFOB. The article and subsequent video give a great example of why the Expeditionary Energy Office exists. We are grateful for the opportunity to positively affect Marines' war fighting capability. The 5:23 mark of the video is the start of the energy portion, but I recommend you watch the whole video. Lt Patterson's discussion about how his Marines lean on one another is touching and makes me proud to be an American and a Marine.
Mark your calendars! As your busy social schedule begins to fill up, wanted to pass along a couple of “Keep the Date” notes for you. This year should be a pivotal one in DOD Energy. The organizations are set and the positions filled. The strategies have been written and revised or are under revision. Lets hear what they have to say!
2. 6th Annual Military Energy Alternatives Conference: Feb 2011
3. 5th Alternative Energy NOW Shades of Green Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida February 23 - 24, 2011
4. And the granddaddy, GovEnergy in Cincinnati, Ohio, August 7-10.
More to follow as they develop. If you come across other events that you believe would be of interest to the readership, please let me know at email@example.com. Cheers!
Monday, January 10, 2011
I recently returned from a week in Berlin with the American Council on Germany Study Group. The purpose of the study group was to look at German efforts in regards to energy and climate change. The assembled group of Americans included folks who were less than convinced as to the anthropomorphic nature of climate change which the Germans take as gospel. In our meetings and briefings with the Bundestag, Chancellery, members of political party think tanks and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, we heard loud and clear that the bold efforts undertaken by Germany in the past decades have been to reduce the amount of carbon they placed in the atmosphere. What became evident over the course of the week was that, although much time was spent discussing impacts of climate change and parts per million (go 350!) what has really been behind the effort were concerns for energy security.
Germany does not have sufficient natural resources in fossil fuels to meet its needs. They import coal from Norway and natural gas from Russia. Only 11% of their energy needs are met by nuclear power. On the world stage, it is probably not good to hear that Germany is concerned about getting the natural resources they require (or Japan for that matter) so concern for climate impacts are much more palatable.
In October 2009, a commercial dispute between Naftohaz Ukrainy and Gazprom turned in to a transnational political issue that threatened the supply of natural gas to several European Union members. This episode focused the EU on the short term interest of energy security. The recent closing of a Pakistani border crossing got the attention of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Though short lived, this identified a critical vulnerability. Imagine fossil fuel poor countries examining their own vulnerabilities. Their only choice: innovate or die. China is not leading the world in the production of renewable energy technologies because the Politburo has become tree huggers. It is about economic opportunity and securing their own energy supplies. The Chinese government’s willingness to subsidize electric cars is a reflection of the vulnerability of the 4.3 billion barrels of oil they import daily. We worry about the straits of Hormuz. They worry about Hormuz AND Malacca.
Now in the latest flexing of energy muscles, Iran has stopped shipments of fuel to Afghanistan. Iran hasn’t given a reason for the curtailment, but the NYT speculates that it could be reflecting Iran’s own energy challenges. Another reason would be to cause NATO force to divert fuel to Afhans in the winter or be seen as callus and insensitive to civilian suffering. I would be interested to know if any of that fuel started out as Kurdish oil, but that is for another day.
Access to resources has always been a catalyst for war. Food and water are the lifeblood of the population and energy is the lifeblood of the economy. National angst about energy takes many forms; unfortunately with the bumper crop of legislation produced by the lame duck session of Congress, one area has been conspicuously absent. My hope for the New Year is that the apparent willingness to deal on both sides of our national debate will be evident in an energy bill this year. The rest of the world is figuring it out. As a nation, we must do so as well.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Followers of mainstream news will report hearing nothing good from Iraq lately. Just the usual smattering of terrorist bombs in Baghdad and beyond, and accounts of slow-moving government incompetence.
But guess what? If you're willing to follow THIS LINK to Thomas Barnett's recent post, you'll get an entirely different picture. One in which it's possible we'll look back at the invasion and all its subsequent pain and suffering and conclude - wow, it was really worth it.
Only time will tell, of course. Here's one more picture though, because our guys are so great, and because the good will they generate from the pure of heart (i.e., kids) is so visible for everyone to see here at home, and inside and outside the Middle East.
Photo credits: US Army's Soldier Media Center on Flickr.com
Monday, January 3, 2011
As the New Year loomed, thoughts turned from sugarplums to resolutions. DOD’s resolutions to tighten its energy belt was evident in the establishment of very aggressive goals for energy demand reduction, the production of renewable/alternative power in support of installations and bringing sustainability to operational energy.
The Department and the Services have set numerous quantity and time goals that, in order to achieve, they must start right now. A few of these are:
- Beginning in 2010 the Navy and Marine Corps will change the way contracts are awarded with Industry being held contractually accountable for meeting energy efficiency targets
- By 2013 DOD will procure 7.5% of its electricity from renewables; 25% by 2025
- By 2015, DOD will reduce energy demand by 30%
- By 2015 the Navy will cut in half the amount of petroleum used in their commercial vehicle fleet through phased adoption of hybrid, electric, and flex fuel vehicles
- By 2016 the Navy will sail the Great Green Fleet, a carrier strike group composed of nuclear ships, hybrid electric ships running biofuel, and aircraft flying on biofuel
- By 2016, the Air Force wants to be buying 400 million gallons of fuel alternatives that are cost competitive with petroleum based fuel and no more carbon intensive in production than available conventional fuels.
- By 2020, the Navy will meet 50% of their total requirements with renewables and have 50% of their installations at Net Zero
- By 2025, the Air Force must bring 1,000 MW of renewable capacity online to meet its goals.
What this plethora of goals attests to are the good intentions of the Department. The challenge will be in accountability. The Services have not made public the campaign plans required to meet these goals, but assuming a normal distribution overtime, we can estimate what we should expect to see in 2011.
Based upon previous analysis, DOD needs to reduce its installation energy use by about 6,300 billion BTUs (BBTUs) every year to make the 2013 goal. It will have to add about 1.5% of its total energy use every year in order to reach the 2015 goal. The challenges in developing an algorithm to model this are the unknowns of growth. If a serious drawdown begins in Afghanistan in mid-2011, those returning service members will increase demand at military installations. Additionally, DOD has not established how these percentages will be applied. In total? Per installation? And from where will the funding come?
In order to reach these goals the Department will have to make use of Energy Saving Performance Contracts, Utilities Energy Services Contracts, Enhance Use Leases and Energy Conservation Improvement Programs. Only the ECIP puts money directly in to commanders’ hands for immediate execution. Al l the other programs are third party investment programs and require long lead lines and bureaucratic gymnastics with government agencies and local utilities. Either the timelines will start slipping or bold audacious leadership will be required. The decentralized model for execution, with each commander making his own determination in what to invest, when and where will not support a strategy.
So, we will be watching for a coordinated DOD strategy for installation and operational energy that addresses the Services established goals (or dismisses them!), supported by a Program Objective Memorandum providing outyear funding for the various methods necessary to reach the goals. Otherwise we will see DOD continue to tout a number of tactical successes without a clear vision of the endstate.
In the coming year, we will look for enterprise wide efforts to reduce demand that use the buying power of DOD to negotiate with utilities. When DOD reduces demand, the utilities are the losers; how can this be made more palatable?
SPIDERS will serve as the stalking horse for the smart micro grid. With dozens of smart grid efforts underway, SPIDERS can serve as the unifying effort to take the best from each and move forward rapidly on this important endeavor.
Finally, Section 2688 of title 10, United States Code has required that DOD privatize its utilities. The Defense Reform Initiative’s (DRI) “objective is to get DoD out of the business of owning, managing, and operating utility systems by privatizing them”. We will not see installations “buying” renewable/ alternative energy power plant. We do hope to see better metrics in what the installations ask for. A 500MW solar plant is not the same as a 500MW geothermal system. Watt-hour is the better measurement. Intermittent systems require utility grade storage to create reliability.
The goal of the Green Fleet will require greater flexibility and adaptability in the Navy’s bio fuels program. In order to get to 400 million gallons of bio fuel, the Air Force fuel certification will have to accelerate; this means more funding. If there is in fact $200 million in the NDAA 2011 bill for energy R&D, much of it will have to go to bio fuels. The rest needs to go for research on viable, deployable utilities level storage programs.
Right now, DOD is the Nation’s best hope to embrace our energy future. America was the country that electrified the world in the first half of the last century; we computerized it in the last half. We should be the nation that leads the world in the new energy economy and the excellent efforts of DOD to date can spark that leadership. DOD takes these actions in the name of national security. The results should be the start of the next American Century. Happy New Year!
(Image Courtesy of Alert5.com)