Magazine article National Defense

Sustainability Is a Critical Factor in the Nation's Energy Equation

Magazine article National Defense

Sustainability Is a Critical Factor in the Nation's Energy Equation

Article excerpt

When it comes to energy initiatives, the Defense Department has a lot of wheels in motion. It has set up a test bed where new power-saving technologies to conserve power are being put through the paces. It is tackling the problem of wind turbines that interfere with airborne radar. And it is also working more closely with the Department of Energy after signing a memorandum of understanding with its counterparts there.

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Dorothy Robyn, who oversees environmental and energy policy at the Defense Department, delivered this encouraging progress report at a recent energy symposium. But she acknowledged that there was still work to be done. For one, energy conservation programs within the department need to have better analyses that can show leadership what the return on investments are for "green" programs. Congress is now asking for the data that proves that these programs are worthwhile. Robyn said her office also needs to do a better job of making senior leaders aware of these initiatives and of the results of the analyses.

Also needed are incentives for the private sector. Today, for example, there is no way to share savings with architecture and engineering firms. This may explain why there are so few of them that are truly expert at the design of energy efficient facilities.

Increasingly, there is emphasis on third-party financing and public-private partnerships. Projects such as the photovoltaic array at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev, involve private investment and ownership, and a military user or purchaser of the energy output. Robyn pointed out the need for policies that lead clearly to effective new energy programs and good metrics to measure success.

James Leatherwood, a NASA official, also made a pitch for "green engineering" development. He said that sustainability is the key driver to innovation. In this arena, the "Law of the Iroquois" is applicable. That law mandates that any decision consider the impact on the seventh successive generation.

Kevin Geiss, deputy secretary of the Air Force for energy, said a key objective is assured access to reliable supplies of energy and delivery to operational areas. He noted that 84 percent of Air Force energy is liquid fuel for aviation. The Air Force approach is first to reduce demand through better planning and by changing Air Force culture. The service already has more than 99 percent of its fleet certified to operate with a 50-50 blend of synthetic and petroleum based fuels. He made the plea for suppliers to come forward with the fuel which the Air Force is prepared to buy and use.

The Air Force would like to use long-term purchase agreements, but Geiss acknowledged the government's scoring system prohibits obligating funds without specific budget authority. …

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