Energy Efficiency on the Battlefield

    9 December 2013

    In his recent testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey stressed the imperatives of lives saved and operational agility as being at the fore of the U.S. military’s efforts in energy efficiency.

    The past few years have seen a range of far reaching, and successful, initiatives by the U.S. military and the Department of Defense (DoD) relating to energy efficiency, sustainable practices and the reduction of carbon emissions. This is evidenced in the Army Sustainability Reports, the Army Security Implementation Strategy and the Net Zero initiative, amongst others. Whilst these strategies have been driven, for the most part, by costs savings and environmental best practices, they have also been very much about actual mission security. This was recently emphasized by Army Gen.. Dempsey in his testimony before the U.S Senate Armed Services Committee regarding DoD’s 2013 budget:

    We lose soldiers, marines, notably airmen and soldiers, on the roads of Afghanistan going from FOB [forward operating base] to Fob ... on resupply missions and so forth. So to the extent we can create autonomous or semi-autonomous, in terms of energy consumption, power and energy organizations ... net zero in terms of their consumption of power and energy, we’ll actually save lives and become a lot more agile because we won’t be as traditional, linear [with our] line of communications.

    Why Military Energy efficiency matters to the United states financially

    In 2012, the U.S. military is estimated to have spent more than $20 billion in energy usage, utilized some 900 quadrillion joules of energy and put 70 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Pike Research has estimated that in 2012 the DoD was the world’s single largest consumer of energy, surpassing the total consumption of more than 100 nations.

    Some examples of what the DoD is doing to recalibrate its energy use and abate its carbon footprint:

    • U.S. military spending on renewable energy programs and conservation is expected to increase steadily over the next 12 years to US$1.8 billion by 2025.
    • The U.S. Navy Green Fleet Strike Group is powered by nuclear and synthetic biofuels. 
    • The establishment of Net Zero: Net Zero operates under the Office of the Assistant Secretary to the Army and develops and invests in projects and initiatives across the U.S. military infrastructure, providing a holistic approach to addressing energy, water and waste at U.S. Army installations. It represents a massive call to arms for innovators.

    Feet on the ground

    Some of the advances aimed at supporting the front line and mission successes include:

    • Developments in the United States of sea water to make jet fuel as an accessible supply chain without fear of supply chain disruption.
    • Use of alternative energy to reduce the weight of carrying fuels into combat zones and  act as renewable supplies.
    • Solar backpacks to reduce weight and increase maneuverability of forces, thereby reducing logistical issues of carrying conventional battery packs.

    Patton Boggs and World Australia’s renowned International Energy Centre will facilitate workshops in the United States in the first quarter of 2014 which will highlight international best practice and innovations in carbon management, clean energy and sustainability. The programmes will also explore the new ‘Integrated Landscape Mechanisms,’ which will look at creating carbon offset projects in developing countries hosting the U.S. military.