Friday, August 12, 2011

The Army Energy Initiatives Office Task Force

On 10 August 2011, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh announced the establishment of the Energy Initiatives Office, or EIO, Task Force as part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment. The EIO Task Force, expected to be fully operational by September 15, will serve as the central managing office for the development of large-scale Army renewable energy projects.

"The Energy Initiatives Office Task Force will help the Army build resilience through renewable energy while streamlining our business practices so developers can invest in and build an economically viable, large-scale renewable energy infrastructure," said McHugh. (see,  U.S. Army establishes Energy Initiatives Office Task Force for large-scale renewable energy projects by ASA (IE & E) Public Affairs)

Energy Initiatives Office Task Force Information Paper (PDF)  states that he Army must reduce operational and installation energy demand because enhancing energy security is operationally necessary, financially prudent, and mission critical. Activities within the EIO Task Force will include analysis of the renewable energy market, project economics, technology, and resource availability to develop large-scale renewable energy solutions.  The EIO Task Force will work within the Army to streamline existing acquisition processes and leverage industry for the execution of large-scale renewable and alternative energy projects on Army installations. It will provide resources focused on working with the private sector to execute these projects.

Other important parts of the Paper are as follows:

“The Army Power and Energy efforts are divided into three focus areas: Soldier Power, Vehicle Power, and Basing Power. The EIO Task Force will utilize the Army’s Renewable Energy Execution Plan to address Basing Power needs, resulting in the implementation of large-scale renewable energy infrastructure on Army installations.

The Army’s EIO Task Force is focused on on-site, large-scale renewable energy generation that can mitigate mission risk stemming from service disruptions due to a reliance on an aging and vulnerable electric grid. This also provides a hedge against rising and volatile energy prices, and serves as a potential source of revenue for other energy and efficiency efforts.”

During a press conference Katherine Hammack -- assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment – is reported as saying that the new task force “is focused entirely on (the continental United States) and large-scale renewable, almost utility-scale renewable projects, on CONUS, that would offset all or part of the energy needs of a permanent installation….When we are looking at projects, we are looking at about the 10-megawatt size, plus or minus a little bit. Or it could be larger. We are looking at large-scale renewable energy projects, on Army installations." Secretary of the Army John McHugh said the Army has about 126 renewable energy projects ongoing, including one at Fort Irwin, Calif., where a solar-energy project will cover a land mass "about the size of the island of Manhattan." (New task force to focus on renewable energy, August 11, 2011)

In an August 10, 2011 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), led members of the congressional Defense Energy Security Caucus (or DESC, launched in July 2011, ) in urging Defense Secretary to continue to research and use of renewable sources of energy and spare any related programs from upcoming budget cuts. (see, Hinchey Leads Congressional Defense Energy Security Caucus in Urging Defense Secretary Panetta to Spare Renewable Energy Solutions from Potential Budget Cuts, 11 August 2011).

The letter states that " For several years, we have advocated for the need to address critical vulnerabilities to our national security based on our military's dependence on both fossil fuels and the national electrical grid.
Recognizing the critical importance of mission energy requirements, we urge you to prioritize the Department's energy policies and budgets. Investments in smart energy plans will not only show returns in security and mission success but they will contribute to future cost savings and have a unique opportunity to help foster innovative and diverse energy and clean technologies to strengthen our economy. Reducing our energy consumption is one of the easiest ways we can reduce cost to the DoD and we ask that you both challenge and demand that the Services and every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine accept this responsibility.”
The DESC intends to be a forum through which the Department of Defense, the Armed Forces, energy industry, and members of Congress can exchange ideas and give defense energy security policy an additional platform that will contribute to mission success, protect lives, save money, and safeguard the environment.
Hinchey has led the effort in Congress to require the military to increase its use of renewable sources of energy. Earlier this year, President Obama signed into law a provision authored by Hinchey, which requires that any solar energy panels purchased by the Department of Defense through subcontracts are made in the U.S. Hinchey's measure dealt with the Buy American Act, which requires products purchased directly by the federal government to contain at least 50 percent of American content.

Meanwhile,  DefenseNews reported that (U.S. Lawmakers: Save Energy Efforts From Budget Ax, 11 August 2011) on Aug. 10, the congressional caucus hosted Rear Adm. Neil Morisetti, the United Kingdom's climate and energy security envoy. Although industry is somewhat skeptical of the military's commitment to renewable energy initiatives, especially as budgets fall Morisetti reportedly said that "But we don't have a choice…Energy is no longer a critical enabler, but a critical vulnerability, too."

All these developments mentioned above sound good. Army wants to keep up with the Air Force and Navy in this new Green Rush. All military services want to reduce dependence on fossil fuel. But the fragmented nature of energy policy making and coordination continues. Look at the main reasons to give impetus for renewable energy technologies, reliance on an aging and vulnerable electric grid as well as increasing costs. Then look at what is being done or planned to be done.

Let’s be realistic, and not over exaggerate the role and importance of renewable energy for the armed forces today and tomorrow.

I am not saying that retired Admiral R. James is completely right. (see his much debated article titled “Of Mustard Fuel and Marines”, appeared on on 2 August 2011).  But I tend to agree with his conclusion: “Force protection should be the supreme goal of military strategy. We should do everything we can to limit the exposure created by moving fuel through combat zones. But let's get real about the solutions. The job of the military is defending the nation.”

Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Far East Public Works Department (PWD) celebrated on 4 August 2011 the installation of a new 76.6 kilowatt photovoltaic system at the Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo (CFAS) Navy Exchange (NEX), Japan. We read many articles like that. What these articles never tell is the unit production cost in comparison with the unit cost from the commercial grid. Now, don’t tell me that commercial grid is too fragile and insecure, and that solar and wind are the solutions.  If that were the case, then small nuclear plants are a much better remedy. Why don’t we see any discussion about them?

The recent EIA report Direct Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy in Fiscal Year 2010 (released in August 2011, full report) shows that subsidies for Biofuels amounted to $6.644 bn, the most federal assistance within the renewables sector. Is it normal to subsidize a fuel (over $25 bn since 2002) which is a clear looser? This insane policy of subsiding fuel ethanol must stop. And DoD should not be part of this insane policy.



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