Wednesday, September 28, 2011

All Energy is Local: Think Main Street, not K Street

Over the past couple of months I have had the opportunity to address a number of different audiences on the topic of energy security and DOD’s efforts to secure their mission critical requirements. Many of these have been sponsored by academic or industry groups who do not engage with the Government on a regular basis. None of these events were held within the Beltway. I always make sure that the audiences know that I do not and cannot speak on behalf of the Government, only as an observer. On at least two occasions I have passed invitations to the Government in hopes of an official spokesman, but have not been able to bring that about. I have made two observations from these events.
First, in some cases, the general population has little understanding of the challenges DOD faces in regard to energy security and, therefore, has no idea that DOD is taking aggressive steps to remedy the situation. They are surprised to learn that DOD is the largest energy user in the country. When I explain that DOD is three million people, 2.2 billion square feet of building space and has a utility bill of $3.9 billion, you can see the lights coming on. When I further explain that the mandates of EPACT 2005, EISA 2007, NDAA 2007 and EO 13423/13524 require DOD to reduce energy use and increase renewable/alternative energy consumption they light up with hope. “Hey, if DOD is on it, we can rest assured that our energy dilemma can be solved!”.
The second observation is that for those who are somewhat informed, their working assumption is that DOD is going to spend a lot of money to secure its energy requirements. When they hear that the Army is seeking $7.1 billion in investment for renewable energy at installations, they want to know who to call. I am asked, invariably, whether or not the Department is willing to pay any kind of a premium for energy security and I inform them that, from all indications, DOD can only pay the market rate for a kilowatt-hour or a gallon of fuel. Even with that bit of deflating news, academia and industry are heartened to hear what is going on.
The lessons here are pretty straight forward. Like politics, in DOD all energy projects will be local. Washington can write the policy, shape the discussion and hold conferences, but it will be Fort Homefront that will write the RFP, coordinate with the utility and deal with myriad local issues that must be resolved in order to get a construction job done. The Army’s Energy Initiative Office (Task Force?) is a great idea. It will serve as a one stop clearing house for legal questions, financing advice and resolution of policy issues, but Commander Righthere will make the decision at his/her base. Washington can expedite; Homefront will decide.
I would like to see DOD engaging groups outside the Beltway by providing TDY funds for local commanders and/or DPWs to attend and address local gatherings and energy forums. Those folks would be much better spokesmen than yours truly and they would be able to speak with conviction. At the last conference I attended in Raleigh Durham, someone from Fort Bragg happened to be attending and when encourage to address the audience, spoke with eloquence and authority. His message was well received.
This October there will be at least three DOD related energy conferences occurring in DC. They will be expensive to attend and will have all the usual suspects and PowerPoint. I would encourage the DOD energy leadership to start sending folks from local installations to local energy conferences. There are no finer ambassadors for the energy efforts than the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines and their civilian counterparts who are working the issues every day. If the purpose of the conferences is to share information and understanding, get out to the hinterland and let Mom and Pop’s Solar Panel Company know what the opportunities are and how to access them. Big Defense Industries already know what to do. Let’s leave K Street behind and go check out Main Street. Dan Nolan
Don't forget to attend:
Yes, I get the irony............

Thursday, September 22, 2011

2011 Energy Security Book List

There are two new books out in the last few months I want you to know about. Whether you have time to read them, even if I am successful in getting you worked up about them, well, that's another story. So again, it's only two books, which is probably one or two more than you'll be able to get to given your current workload. But here's why you should give them a shot.

The first one is by former Austin Energy CIO Andres Carvallo, called The Advanced Smart Grid: Edge Power Driving Sustainability. Co-authored with frequent technology writer John Cooper, this book is relatively short at ~200 well illustrated pages, and is a pleasure to read. I'm going to re-use some of the laudatory words I recently posted in an Amazon review.

Before they invite you to travel with them into the future, Carvallo and Cooper do a solid job of orienting the reader with concise summaries of where the grid came from, how it's evolved over time, and as accurately as possible, how it's doing in its current state. For the many immigrants who've recently moved to energy from other sectors (like me), this is a great grounding.

The authors then look past the current climate of activity, much of it initially fueled with government grants, to a phase where business drivers alone dictate what gets deployed next. Ultimately, they begin to unveil for us a blurry but emerging vision of "the advanced Smart Grid", that's predicated on pervasive IP networking, tons and tons of data, microgrids, EVs, virtual power plants, new business models and more. For me, it was well worth the time, and depending on your background and/or day job, it might be for you too.

Book number two is from one of the (if not, THE) true giants of global energy thinking over the past decades, Daniel Yergin. Best known (to me, anyway) for his biblical telling of the history and future of the oil industry in The Prize, his new book, The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, expands in scope to consider all energy sources. Recently reviewed in the NYT, this excerpt seems apropos:

When it comes to assessing the world’s energy future Mr. Yergin is a Churchillian. He argues that we should consider all possible energy sources, the way Winston Churchill considered oil when he spoke to the British Parliament  in 1913. “On no one quality, on no one process, on no one country, on no one route, and on no one field must we be dependent,” Churchill said. “Safety and security in oil lie in variety and variety alone.”
... and one more thing, for which the a smarter grid is the essential precursor:
One of Mr. Yergin’s closing arguments focuses on the importance of thinking seriously about one energy source that “has the potential to have the biggest impact of all.” That source is efficiency. It’s a simple idea, he points out, but one that is oddly “the hardest to wrap one’s mind around.” More efficient buildings, cars, airplanes, computers and other products have the potential to change our world.
Sounds great, right? Well, the bad news for you travelers is that, from a weight perspective, is that it tops 800 pages, though if you get the ebook version it's as light as can be. Now reading it, or the majority of it, that's another story. If it's too much for you to consider, maybe you can wait and hope for a movie version. But I wouldn't count on it.

Happy reading!

Photo credit: Miamism on
(Cross-posted from the Smart Grid Security Blog)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where Do We Go From Here? 2010 Energy Report and Media Outreach

Tremendous week, last week, for Army and Air Force energy offices with media and bloggers. I make the distinction between what bloggers do and what the media does because it is important to draw that line between journalists and the unwashed masses in the streets. We expect higher standards, more facts and less opinion from reporters. Glad I am not one of those; way too hard!

Back to the media blitz. This past Wednesday, DASAF, Energy Dr. Kevin Geiss, provided an update on what the AF has planned and accomplished over the past several months, as well as they were in reaching the various goals, mandates and executive orders under which they labor. The answer was: Dang Close.

The recently released DOD Annual Energy Management Report for 2010 ranked all the Services in the categories of energy reduction and production of renewable energy. By the end of 2010, all Services were to have reduced their energy use by 3% a year from a 2003 baseline or 15% by EOY 2010. The results for 2010: AF-14.9% , Navy – 13.7% and Army – 8.7%. (top chart)

For production of renewable energy, the goal was 5% by 2010. The winner is…… AF at 6.4% with the Army and Navy have yet to reach the 2007 goal of 3%. (bottom chart)

The Air Force bought a lot of Renewable Energy Certificates (3.3%) which helped it achieve the goal; otherwise they would have been around the 3% mark. The performance of the other Services prevented the DOD from reaching the 5% goal. So, what are the implications and ramifications of missing the mark? There do not appear to be any. I wonder if Congress will start trimming the budget to reflect where the Services should be?

The Army followed the Air Force roundtable with their own, to announce the first day of work for the Energy Initiatives Office Task Force. This is the Office (Task Force?) about which the SecArmy announce the formation at GovEnergy some weeks ago. I guess the stationary arrived. The job of the Task Force (Office?) is to provide expertise to installations for larger renewable energy projects. The Army is looking for $7.1 Billion in investment over the next ten years to put them into position to achieve 25% of their energy from renewable sources by 2025 (Sec 2911(e) of Title 10 U.S.C.). Their motto is “We have the land and the demand”. Hopefully, they will be taking on the stalled Fort Irwin 500 MW Solar project and put the hard lessons learned from that apparent slow motion train wreck.

Fortunately, they have a little time to get it together. Here in late September, there are no large scale renewable energy projects for the Army that are in the proposal stage. Lots of information being sought, but no proposal. In a post at the beginning of the year, we said that DOD would have to add 1.5% of its total energy use (after energy reductions) to make its goals. It appears that this year has been about making plans and strategies and setting up offices. Speaking on behalf of industry, we are ready to rock. DOD….ready when you are! Dan Nolan

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Corrupt the Youth: Mabus sends Navy to Energy School

As a recovering TRADOCian, I have a little experience trying to get something new into the curriculum at military schools. With packed schedules, anything new requires that something else be dropped. I predicted that it would be a long time before energy security started showing up in the school house. I was wrong.

The Green Hornet himself, SecNav Ray Mabus came up on the net late last month with an announcement:

"Let me give you the headline of why I'm here today," Mabus said. "Starting this fall, the Naval Postgraduate School will offer … energy graduate degree program[s], the first military educational institution to do so. And beginning early next year, NPS will launch the SECNAV Executive Energy Series – catchy title – a two-week program designed to tackle specific energy challenges."

The Naval Post Graduate School has the mission to “provides high-quality, relevant and unique advanced education and research programs that increase the combat effectiveness of the Naval Services, other Armed Forces of the U.S. and our partners, to enhance our national security”. Officers from all Services compete to attend this highly prestigious school. The fact that it is located in on Monterey Bay in Northern California does not reduce its appeal. As I well know, they are highly select in who attend. I bet it would have been fun.

That the Navy is willing to commit the resources in their educational program to highlight this area of study is telling. Where there may not be big dollars for projects in the near term, shaping future decision makers understanding of energy security is about setting the conditions for success. While DOD has been relatively short term focused, the Navy is stepping out to create the leaders for whom energy is an internalized value. Well done, Sailors!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Normally Strong Grid's Self Inflicted Wounds

So only a few days ago you saw a post here about grid lessons from Hurricane Irene. Now we're back with another major grid event and I'm not sure what to call it other than the recent Arizona, San Diego and Mexico outage ... SanMexiZona outage perhaps?

Investigations are still being conducted, but what do we know so far? Well, a transmission maintenance issue impacted a substation in Arizona, and then:
  • Cascading failure reached into California and Mexico, knocking power out to millions
  • And caused 2 nuclear facilities to shut down
  • Navy and Marine bases turn to back-up diesel generators and kept non-essential personnel home
  • And many other types of trouble you'd expect from a black out in a large US city ensued, driving cost estimates into the hundreds of millions.
It's weird. In some ways the grid is a beast, capable of absorbing the worst insults and continuing operations largely unaffected. It virtually scoffs at earthquakes, raging fires, hurricanes, tornadoes ... and across the Pacific, even Godzilla stomping out of Tokyo Bay once in a while. Sure, some outages occur in the areas where equipment is destroyed. But the grid is usually a master of defense and containment.

But then a little thing happens during routine maintenance and a big chunk of the grid unexpectedly swoons. Amory Lovins and others on the 2008 DoD Science Board (DSB) task force on Energy identified the US grid as brittle and a threat to CONUS military readiness. Here's Lovins in 2010:
The US electrical grid ... is very capital-intensive, complex, technologically unforgiving, usually reliable, but inherently brittle. It is responsible for 98–99 percent of U.S. power failures, and occasionally blacking out large areas within seconds—because the grid requires exact synchrony across subcontinental areas … and can be interrupted by a lightning bolt, rifle bullet, malicious computer program, untrimmed branch, or errant squirrel.
Seems like some of the worst behaviors we see in the grid are avoidable. In addition to the many other benefits we often describe to regulators and general public with the Smart Grid build out, improvements to reliability have got to be high on the list, if not #1.

Image credit: KUSI News San Diego
(Cross-posted from the Smart Grid Security Blog)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New DOD Energy Blog design coming ...

Please bear with us as we work to implement a new logo and masthead, a more readable black type on white format, and a few other tweaks. Most of the changes have already taken place, but it may be a few more hours or days until the conversion to the new look is 100% complete. Thanks!

                                          - the Management

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Unit Does Well What the Boss Checks: Mod the Behavior; the Culture is fine.

Superb piece by Dr. Richard Andres and Micah Loudermilk in livebetter eMagazine. I love periodicals that save money on capitalization! Dr. Andres’ piece cites an experiment run by the Power Surety Task Force, where I happened to work at the time. We talked Clark Real Estate (privatized housing) into letting us modify four housing units under construction at Fort Belvoir, one as a control and three with progressively greater degrees of energy efficiency and conservation as well as renewable energy.Our goal was to be able to determine the contributions of the various mods in reducing grid energy use. The only thing we couldn't influence were who lived there or how they behaved. There’s the rub!

Our control house turned out to be the most efficient; our Cadillac house, an energy hog. After resetting everything we could reset and running the numbers again, the results were the same. So we surveyed the occupants. Control house had dual military, no kids, readers (vice TV) who didn’t like air conditioning. Cadillac house had teenagers. Need I say more?

The point that Dr. Andres and Micah make is that behavior matters in energy use. All of the Services talk about needing to change their culture to achieve greater energy awareness. But the cultures are fine. Ask any Drill Sergeant. Culture is just the transmission of values and wisdom from one generation to the next. “Here, kid, this is what works.” Wisdom is the prescription for “what works”. The medium for the transmission are the behavior of senior leadership and the actions they take. Values can be taught, but they are better caught. Each audience will require different messages, the theme tailored to that audience.

If you want to impress a room full of Marines about the importance of energy conservation, have the Commandant deliver the message and make sure commanders know that it will be part of their evaluation. That is using culture to modify behavior.

If you don’t mod the behavior, it doesn’t matter what else you do. When the PSTF introduced energy savings through spray polyurethane foam spraying on tents in Iraq, the efficiency was immediately evident. Energy consumption dropped significantly…until commanders found they had extra energy. Suddenly, other non-mission critical facilities could be powered, and who doesn’t want a latte’ on a cold winter’s night?

As a young battery commander, I decide I would check things in the battery I thought noone else was really checking. I had a great First Sergeant, superb Chief of Smoke and excellent Motor Sergeant. My Lieutenants were equally good, but they would never hear that from me! When I took it over, Bravo Battery was the best in the battalion (or so the outgoing commander said in his speech). Since everything else was going so well, I decided that my “thing” would be to check for pinholes in waterproof bags. If a waterproof back has a pinhole, the sleeping bag inside gets wet and the soldier can’t sleep. Since everyone else had a piece of checking the important stuff, I checked for pinholes.

Eventually we had NO pinholes in our waterproof bags…..but the quality of training, maintenance and supply had fallen dramatically. LTC Del Campbell, the battalion commander, took me aside and said, “Remember, the important thing is to make sure that the important thing remains the important thing”. Once I finally figured out what he meant, (thanks, Top!) I made sure I was paying attention to important things, because that is what the rest of the leadership would then do. The unit does well what the boss checks.

If you want to change behavior, assign responsibility, provide the authority commensurate with the responsibility (no unfunded mandates!) and hold those responsible ruthlessly accountable for the execution of those authorities. It is how it is done in combat and training; why not use that behavior tool here? Well done, Richard and Micah. Dan Nolan