The Defense Department is seeing the Biden administration’s green-government goals as an opportunity to improve resilience around critical resources like fuel and electricity.
DoD Chief Sustainability Officer Joe Bryan said last week that the department must plan for logistics to be part of a contested environment.
“We cannot expect a free pass to deliver the fuel we need, to where we need it, when we need it. So reducing the energy demand for our weapons platforms, and our forward-deployed forces is an imperative,” Bryan said on June 28 at the Federal Sustainability Forum, hosted by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and the Digital Climate Alliance.
Bryan said that about 70% of DoD’s energy use comes from its operations, and that two-thirds of its operations energy use comes from its airplanes.
The Army, as part of its latest climate strategy, expects to put micro-grids on all its bases by 2023, and carbon-free by 2030.
Rachel Jacobson, the Army’s assistant secretary for installations, energy and environment, said the Army also seeks an all-electric non-tactical vehicle fleet by 2035, as well as progress in fielding some hybrid tactical vehicles. The Army is also looking to have a resilient supply chain by 2028.
Jacobson, said climate change is a “threat multiplier,” that can accelerate damage to DoD’s infrastructure, interrupt supply chains and interrupt personnel training because of extreme weather.
“There are going to be a lot of incremental approaches. It’s aggressive, but within a decade or so, we think we can achieve many of these goals,” Jacobson said.
The Army is also prototyping a hybrid Bradley fighting vehicle this summer at Yuma Proving Ground, where it will be tested against the conventional gas-powered Bradley.
Jacobson said hybrid vehicles are expected to reduce fuel consumption by 20% or more.
They’ll also require less maintenance, and will have a reduced heat and sound signature, making the vehicle harder to detect on the battlefield.
“It has these operational strategic benefits in addition to the greenhouse gas of benefits from it,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson said the Army is also looking to partner with the Energy Department on better measuring energy usage, as well as the impact of renewable energy projects and their cost savings.
“We have such a diversity among our bases. However many bases we have, that’s how many different kinds of measuring of programs we have, with respect to gathering this data. And ultimately, this has to be data-driven. This data has to be rock solid, because we keep having to make the case over and over again, that whatever investments we’re making now will pay off. The cost avoidance of not doing something is much worse than the investments we’re making now, but we have to show that,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson said DoD has set ambitious goals for bases to be carbon-free within about a decade, she said this work won’t happen overnight.
“We need energy independence and energy resilience, but the truth of the matter is that backup power is mostly diesel generators,” she said.
Jacobson said the Army still relies on an “ancient” a coal-fired power plant, at a base in Alaska.
“It’s a transition, and we’ll get there, but we can’t jettison the use of fossil fuels entirely at this time,” Jacobson said.
DoD is working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory to evaluate backup power in the event of power failure on the local grid. Jacobson said the Army continues to rely on fossil fuels in combination with renewable energy to power bases.
The Army’s Office of Energy Initiatives manages its privately-financed, large-scale, energy projects Through this office, the Army has leveraged over $650 million through these projects so far.
“Obviously, if we just had to rely on appropriations, these projects would compete with other mission-critical projects, with other infrastructure projects, with just the array of investments that are needed on an Army base,” Jacobson said.