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U.S. DOD pursuing efficiency to reduce $4 billion energy bill

The U.S. Defense Department is pursuing energy efficiency and other measures to lower its energy bill and increase its energy security, officials told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee in late March. The department spends $4 billion a year on energy, Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, testified at the hearing on planned energy investments. DOD operates more than 300,000 buildings, which have an environmental footprint six times greater than the General Services Administration and three times larger than Walmart, Robyn said.

To reduce its energy demand and costs, the DOD seeks $1.1 billion in funding in fiscal year 2013 for energy efficiency retrofits of buildings, Robyn said. It also made a commitment outside of the budget to enter into more than $1 billion worth of energy savings contracts, she said.

The USDOD is ramping up its partnerships with the private sector to pursue energy efficiency and energy reduction projects, according to officials. Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy, and environment, said the Army is quadrupling the number of its energy savings performance contracts in fiscal year 2012. Through the contracts, the Army partners with the private sector to build energy efficiency projects. In fiscal year 2011, the Army executed approximately $73 million in energy savings performance contracts. The Army has already executed $93 million in contracts in the first quarter of fiscal 2012 and plans to have at least $400 million by the end of the fiscal year.

Terry Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment, and logistics, said the Air Force is also aggressively pursuing these types of contracts. The Air Force has invested $143 million over the past five years in energy savings performance contracts, with returns of $27 million per year in energy savings, he said.

Robyn also said the department is applying energy-efficiency technologies from the private sector and the Energy Department to aid in the commercialization of these technologies. The first user of a new technology assumes significant costs and risks but does not benefit any more than a later user, Robyn said.

“As the owner of 300,000 buildings, we look at risk differently,” she said. She said the department looks at military installations as a “distributed test bed” for demonstrating and validating new technologies. For example, the department is linking its bases around the San Diego area onto the same smart grid system, Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations, and environment, said at the hearing.

The regional smart grid system features local control of energy supply and demand combined with onsite distribution and storage technologies, which will reduce energy costs, she said.

According to Sharon Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy at USDOD, 90 percent of the department's fiscal 2013 budget request for energy used in military operations is for initiatives that reduce the military's demand for energy. Burke said the department's goal is to increase energy security by reducing demand for energy and by diversifying and securing new energy supplies.

“Our supply line has been vulnerable,” she said, and the cost in lives, injuries, and resources to resupply fuel has been “much too high.” Burke said the military will continue to rely heavily on conventional fuels for the foreseeable future but is looking at alternative fuels and will purchase them on a larger scale when they become price competitive. USDOD requested $16.3 billion for fiscal year 2013 for petroleum-based fuels.

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