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Army seeks $7.1 billion in energy-related industry investment

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Sept. 20, 2011) -- The Army is hoping industry will be willing to invest as much as $7.1 billion dollars over ten years on installations to develop renewable energy projects that can help the service meet its energy security goals.

To make that easier, the Army announced in August the creation of an "Energy Initiatives Task Force" to interface the Army with the private sector, and to ensure that potential investors and developers are comfortable working in the sometimes complex acquisition environment of the federal government. That task force stood up Sept. 15.

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"Energy security is a critical issue to the Army, affecting both our energy supply at home and abroad," said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations environment and energy. "It is critical that we take steps to improve our energy security."

Part of ensuring energy security is the Army's "Net Zero" program, meant to increase Army focus on both energy and water efficiency. Additionally, Net Zero is meant to help reduce the amount of water and energy used. Also part of that program, Hammack said, is to produce energy on the military installations.

But with budget challenges, Hammack said the Army doesn't have the funds available to pursue the things it needs to increase energy security.

"What we are doing is leveraging the authorities given by Congress, and have identified that the Army is looking for about $7 billion of private sector investment on Army installations," Hammack said.

With that kind of investment, the Army hopes to get about 2.1 million MWh of energy. The Army seeks "utility scale" energy production, Hammack said, something she said amounts to 10MW or larger. She also said it is "unreasonable" to ask an installation to put the level of focus necessary into such projects.

"It'll take an effort above and beyond the daily activities at our installations and garrisons," she said.

The energy initiatives task force will bear most of the burden of enticing industry to get on board with Army energy goals, Hammack said. The team is made up of "focused individuals whose primary task is to work with the private sector to develop these kind of renewable and alternative energy projects."

Part of that, she said is ensuring the Army's got all the paperwork right, and all the facts and information needed to present to industry so they can feel comfortable investing and developing renewable energy projects that will both help the Army achieve energy security, and will help investors earn good returns.

"To attract the private investments, we need to have biddable projects -- we have to do our homework," Hammack said. "We have to do our due diligence to make sure these projects have the appropriate information, facts and background that is necessary for a developer and for the finance community to invest in."

Hammack said now there are already 20 projects "in the pipeline" and the task force will work to accelerate them, "so that when we get to spring of next year or summer of next year, [we'll be] ready for bid."

There are challenges to working with the federal government on acquisition, Hammack said, though much is part of federal law.

"There is no intent to work around that, but there is an intent to help streamline it," Hammack said. She also said there's some portions of the acquisition process that are service-specific, that can be made easier to deal with. The task force will work to streamline the acquisition process to bring investors on board.

The task force plans an industry day, Oct. 27, at Fort Bliss Texas. Additionally, there will be an Energy Initiatives Task Force summit, Nov. 3, in Washington, D.C.

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