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Energy Security through the Four Pillars of Energy Conservation

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- In Air Force Space Command our mission is to provide an integrated constellation of space and cyberspace capabilities at the speed of need.

However, what this means in energy terms within the Air Force is that AFSPC has the highest energy intensity (measured in millions of British thermal units per square foot (MBTU/SF), or highest use of electric energy, of all major commands.

The reason for this is, AFSPC missions are facility-centric; utilities are the runways of our missions and energy is the jet fuel for conducting our operations. Energy use within the command is about 98 percent facility energy and 2 percent mobility fuels as compared to other Air Force mission areas like Air Combat Command or Air Mobility Command, which have approximately 80 percent mobility fuel usage to 20 percent facility energy usage.

While energy reduction and cost savings are important, energy security must be a primary consideration. Energy security covers sufficiency, surety, and sustainability of energy. Above all, it means having adequate power to conduct critical missions for the duration of that mission. Increasing AFSPC energy security and decreasing our foreign dependence on petroleum only serves to increase our overall national security.

In order to achieve energy security, it is important to adhere to the Four Pillars of Infrastructure (Facilities) Energy Conservation.

The first pillar is "Improve Current Infrastructure." This pillar focuses on increasing energy efficiency in current facilities, vehicles, equipment as well as actively conserving water through a variety of specific actions such as improving building envelope thermal resistance; installing energy-efficient lighting; recommissioning; maximizing space utilization; and replacing inefficient system components with high-efficiency ones.

An example of this is motion-activated lighting, which saves energy by ensuring the lights are on only when needed, which saves money by reducing the electric bill as well as reducing the number of light bulbs we need to replace due to higher usage, but sometimes unnecessary usage.

Another good example is at Peterson Air Force Base: the 21st Space Wing headquarters building has a green roof. Vegetation was planted on the roof in September 2007 and the building has seen reduced energy consumption. The green roof spans 19,000 square feet, and heat is redirected through the plants instead of the rooftop, cooling the inside of the building.

The second pillar is "Improve Future Infrastructure." The focus of this pillar is on improving processes and applying sustainable energy-efficiency standards to accelerate the delivery of high-performance buildings, alternative-fuel vehicles, and supporting infrastructure into the Air Force inventory. The facilities initiative centers on planning, programming, design, construction, and commissioning new and renovated facilities through MILCON and Operations and Maintenance appropriations.

An example for this would be ensuring that all new facility and mission upgrades or new system developments have the latest energy-saving devices, operating systems, and efficiencies incorporated in the design and construction.

Pillar number three is "Expand Renewables." This pillar promotes the development of renewable and alternative energy for use in facilities, ground vehicles and equipment. Examples of renewable and alternative energy types include those from solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal sources; these can be used for facilities. These projects help us diversify our energy supplies, posturing us for increased energy security. Other examples of renewable and alternative energy include biofuel, hydrogen, and solar-charging, for use in vehicles.

A great example of this is at Los Angeles Air Force Base, where our Airmen are harnessing energy by using solar panels that have cut the base's energy cost each month.

Renewable electrical energy is purchased directly from the local utility provider in its generation mix, through renewable energy credits (most common), or through direct purchase. At times, this energy is generated on base through either government-owned or third party financed or owned capacity. For the Air Force, on-base generation is the preferred approach, to increase supply security and decrease stress on the national electrical grid.

Today, DoD is also establishing goals for base-generated renewable energy to be 25 percent of base consumption by the year 2025. Additionally, the Air Force is engaged with DoD and the Department of Energy to define, develop, and implement net-zero energy installations--bases that produce more energy (on-site from renewable sources) than they consume. The Air Force will eventually work at "islanding," and/or removing, bases from the national energy supply through plans to generate in excess of 100 percent of base requirements with renewable energy. "Islanding" is a term used to state that an installation can self-generate enough electrical power from on-base generators or a renewable energy source that allows our missions to be minimally impacted.

The fourth and last pillar is "Manage Cost." This pillar focuses on methods to significantly reduce or stabilize utility cost through favorable terms, service, and rates. Purchased utilities include electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, liquid propane, coal, steam, and hot water. Water and sanitary sewer are two additional non-energy utility categories that are managed under this pillar. Utility bills must be examined across all cost components, including commodity purchases, fees, demand charges, and late payments.

Seizing this opportunity requires additional resources, removal of roadblocks, a robust review process, and data transparency. The key actions in this pillar include cost planning, negotiation and litigation of utility rates, accounting management, prompt bill paying, and cost-avoidance education.

For the last few years, as a command, we have done a good job of reducing energy consumption, water consumption across the command has dropped 547 million gallons and electric use has fallen 23,305 million Btus, but that does not mean we can ease off on initiatives of saving and conserving energy. We need to continue to plan and operate according to the Four Pillars to increase our energy security. Each of us plays a role and if you have an idea to reduce our energy use submit them to your Base Civil Engineer Energy Management office.