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Army needs appropriated funds to ensure energy security

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Feb. 05, 2016) -- While the Army is making great progress meeting its energy efficiency and renewable energy targets, this is not enough, said Richard G. Kidd, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability.

What the Army needs are funds allocated specifically for energy security to improve the resiliency of installations in the face of growing threats to the energy grid, said Kidd during a presentation on Capitol Hill, Feb. 3.

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Gaining energy security for some of the Army's most important installations requires an array of investments, like on-site power generation and micro-grids, where the return on investment is increased security, rather than cost savings.

"Their return for the country is a ... security return," Kidd said. "What the DOD gets paid to do is security."

Kidd was part of a panel of nine military officials from the four military services and DOD who spoke to senate staffers on Capitol Hill about energy-security matters.

The senior Army official told staffers that lawmakers have asked for more energy security on installations, citing both the National Defense Authorization Act and the "Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007" as examples.

"But there is no budgetary mechanism that allows us to actually go out and do a cost-benefit analysis and buy that energy security," Kidd said. "Energy security does not fit into traditional cost-benefit analysis as applied to efficiency projects. We are including energy security as part of ... other projects. It would be very difficult within the current budget climate to get the military construction funding needed to build more resilient installations.

"Congress asks the military to do more for energy security, and all services are doing a great job of incorporating energy security as part of other efforts, such as renewables, or performance contracting or test and evaluation programs," Kidd said. "But very few times are we getting the kind of security that we need to protect against current threats at the scale required to ensure mission success for an entire installation. Our doctrine requires that our installations serve as platforms of power. To ensure this occurs these same installations must also be platforms of resiliency."

In Fort Drum, New York, the Army has installed technologies that help the installation increase its energy efficiency and reduce total power demands. Getting the installation to make more efficient use of its electricity was really the first step in providing energy security for Fort Drum. The second step was to work in concert with a private sector partner to install a bio-mass electrical plant on the installation - converted from a former coal-fired plant - that can provide power to the installation in the event that the civilian power grid goes down. The facility is operated by a civilian partner, not the Army.

When the power goes out around Fort Drum, the Army installation keeps on humming, using the energy generated on site.

In November, Fort Drum demonstrated the ability to take care of itself when engineers there shut the installation off from the civilian power grid to see if it could sustain itself under its own production capability for two days. Fort Drum, Kidd said, was able to carry out its mission without connection to the wider power grid by "proving the resilience of the installation."

The Army now wants to do the same thing in Hawaii by connecting Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Air Field, and even a local hospital together into one micro-grid powered by on-site generating capacity.

"In that case, we are going to partner with the state and the local utility. The plant is going to be well above the shoreline," he said, adding that away from the threat of tsunamis, and it will be "a platform of resiliency" in the region.

The Army plans to develop a bio-fuel facility in Hawaii, and expects that by the end of the summer the deals will all be signed to make it happen, Kidd said. The plant should be producing power by early 2018.

Like on Fort Drum, the electrical production facility in Hawaii won't be limited to providing power to the Army installation. Instead, it will actually feed electricity back into the civilian power grid, in partnership with the local power company.

"The goal is to have an asset that is valuable to both the Army and the local community and utility," Kidd said. "If generation is built for exclusive Army use, it becomes very expensive and offers fewer benefits for the broader grid. So Hawaiian Electric gets a generating asset safe from tsunamis that they can use to manage their grid while the Army gets enhanced energy security - a win for all.

It's only when the commercial power goes off locally that the Army's own power plant will shine. While the rest of the island will have to make due with no electricity, the Army installation will be able to continue to conduct its missions: providing security for the nation and providing support for local authorities.

Kidd said that in places like Hawaii or New York, where utility prices are high, the savings generated by energy efficiency projects can be used to make additional investments in energy security projects.

In other places, the savings from energy efficiency are not enough to invest in energy security. So in those places, Kidd said, the Army needs appropriated funds to buy that security.

"Right now, all of our appropriated energy funds have to go through a cost-benefit analysis," he said. "That's how Congress racks and stacks and values our energy investments. But a micro-grid to provide energy security on our installations should be thought of as an investment in military capability. We buy it, not necessarily to use it every day, but to have it in the event of a conflict or emergency. So if you build a micro-grid, it will not necessarily have a positive internal rate of return. What it will offer is military capability to protect our installations."

One place where appropriated funds for energy security could do some real good is on Fort Lewis, Washington, Kidd said.

"At Fort Lewis, Washington, the Army enjoys some of the cheapest power in the country, thanks to hydroelectric dams," Kidd said. "Even if we save 50 percent of power that costs 4-cent per KwH - we can't build a micro grid on 2 cents in savings.

"Fort Lewis ... is where the I Corps headquarters is," said Kidd, noting that it is I Corps that will have to fight in Korea if a situation ever arises there. "We're never going to get energy security at Fort Lewis, Washington, without appropriated dollars."

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