Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Rose by Any Other Name: The Struggle to Define and Value Energy Security

Excellent discussion of energy security and DOD’s struggle to define it in a Greenwire article by Annie Snider.  Ms Snider spoke with everyone who is anybody in the Defense energy market (and some nobodies) in a two part piece.  From the half dozen definitions for energy security  proffered in frustration by Richard Kidd, DASA, Energy and Sustainability (previous post) to the discussion of the complexity in determining mission criticality on installations provided by Coby Jones, one of the best  energy program coordinators in the Army, the article highlights the challenges inherent in such a seemingly simple functional area, energy. 

For Dr. Dorothy Robyn, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment, it is all about the triple bottom-line: energy efficiency, expand renewable energy and improve power security.  For thinktankers like the Heritage Foundation’s Jack Spencer it is about operational capacity, while for ASD, Homeland Defense Paul Stockton it about resilience in the face of attacks on the national grid.   For industry, the result is confusion about what is driving the market: is it energy security or the various mandates? 
The one bright star in this gloomy picture is the work on smart grids.  Without a smarter grid, there can be no real energy security.  Efforts from SPIDERS to microgrid work at Camp Sabalu-Harrison (thanks to my FB friend, S. Burke for this one) reflect the uniformed and civilian sides of the Services coming together in common cause.  The smart, microgrid effort is not being driven by mandates, but by the recognition that “assured access” to energy comes from understanding distribution priorities can change in seconds and commanders must be able to react to those changes. 

Regardless of the definition of energy security, until DOD can value it, industry does not know how to react.  Smart, microgrids are pure energy security value; they may also serve to make energy use more efficient, but that is really a bonus effect.  If DOD were willing to pay a 3% premium on power generated inside their gates, guns and guards, that would be market signal.  Anything done in the way of energy efficiency can be valued as energy security because the safest, cleanest, cheapest and most secure electron is the one you do not use. 

The follow on article to this one looks at renewable energy at military bases.  Hurry, Annie, we can’t wait!  Dan Nolan


Scott Pugh said...

Wind and solar on a DOD base look good but do almost nothing to enhance energy security without some sort of grid-scale energy storage system - which none of them have today. A base Commander can't assume the wind will blow or the sun will shine if the commercial grid is down due to a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. The simplest and quickest way to dramtically enhance base energy security inside CONUS would be to provide generators that can run not on the limited one week diesel supply that most bases have but on the millions of gallons of aviation or marine fuel already stockpiled at almost all Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force Bases. Go to major base and take a look at the huge fuel storage facilities (e.g. Hickam AFB, Peterson AFB, Offutt AFB, NAVBASE Pearl Harbor, NAVBASE NORFOLK, FORT Benning, etc., etc.) There's more than enough fuel there to provide reliable power for months - but only IF the base has generators that can run on that type of fuel. Navy ships, Air Force aircraft and Army/Marine tactical vehicles use this fuel for mobility and power - and in a national emergency our critical bases and facilities should be able to use it also.

Anonymous said...

Energy security, as it relates to the electric power grid, is best defined as the access to and availability of resilient sources of generation, transmission, and distribution required to achieve DoD mission assurance. That definition includes “reliability” and “affordability,” as both must be considered when developing energy security solutions. These concepts of reliability and affordability should be considered as DoD identifies the best solutions for enhancing the DoD energy security profile, locally, regionally, and/or nationally. The various principles associated with reliability and affordability (i.e. availability, adequacy, delivery, diversity, resiliency, sustainability, economic efficiency and flexibility, environmental acceptability, political orientation and stability, supplier concentration and demand)are equally important in the selection and implementation of energy security solutions.

Anonymous said...

nice opinion.. thanks for sharing...