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Renewable Energy Vision
Expert analysis on the most pressing issues facing the renewable energy sector in the U.S and abroad from ACORE staff, members and supporters.

Renewable Energy Works for DoD

Published on 18 Aug 2014  |   Written by    |  

On July 29th, ACORE hosted a leadership meeting on the financing of third-party-owned renewable energy systems at military installations. The meeting featured the Assistant Secretary for Energy with the U.S. Army, Katherine Hammack, and the Assistant Secretary for Energy with the U.S. Navy (and former ACORE CEO!), Dennis McGinn.

The meeting focused on the value of energy security for the Department of Defense, as well as the role private capital will play in helping the military achieve its energy objectives. ACORE's Research and Program Manager, Lesley Hunter, explained the meeting's purpose thusly: "the military services are relying on third-party capital to finance 3 GW of renewable energy projects on their fixed installations. By connecting military leadership with prominent renewable energy financiers and developers – like at our meeting on July 29 – we can jointly define strategies that will enhance access to private capital and allow the military achieve its energy objectives.”

Those objectives include DoD deriving 25% of its facility’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2025, a goal that some people have openly questioned. They shouldn’t.

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ACORE's DoD Leadership Meeting on 7/29

Take it from the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus. According to Secretary Mabus, the military is turning to renewable energy to “become better warfighters. That’s the only reason. There are some good side effects -- things like reducing carbon and things like climate change -- but that’s not the reason we’re doing it. We’re doing it to reduce a vulnerability.”

I think we can all agree: the term “vulnerability” is never a good thing, especially when used in relation to national defense. The fact is, our military is too reliant on a susceptible grid and volatile, unwieldy fossil fuels.

Indeed, 99% of the over 500 military bases on U.S. soil rely on the commercial grid, a reliance that, according to the Defense Science Board, represents a “primary energy challenge.” And this reliance has had real consequences: in 2012 alone, the Department of Defense reported 87 power outages of eight hours or more at its bases.

And our military’s reliance on fossil fuels has cost both lives and money. 1 out of 8 U.S. Army casualties in Iraq happened while protecting fuel convoys. That’s over 3,000 troops, an immeasurable price to pay. In Afghanistan, every gallon of fuel used cost the military an average of $400 by the time it was “dropped in” to a tank. And the volatile fluctuations in the price of fuel meant an extra $3 billion in unplanned expenses for the Department of Defense from 2011-2012.

This is where renewable energy comes in. For one, many renewable energy technologies are distributed – meaning electricity is generated exactly where it’s needed. Solar panels and wind turbines can all pump out electricity wherever they’re located, so there’s no need to rely on an outdated, unprotected grid. And what’s more, they don’t require the constant shipping of fuel to remote regions – reducing the amount of time our troops spend in harm’s way.

Clean energy does more for the military than protect our troops and infrastructure. It also saves money for the American taxpayer. The USS Makin Island, the first Navy ship to use a hybrid-electric propulsion system, will save $250 million on fuel costs over its lifetime.

Renewable energy means a more independent, cost-effective, and (most importantly) secure military. We know why the military is doing this. The only question left to ask is “how can we speed this process up?"

Kyle McGuiness

Kyle McGuiness is a Communications Associate with ACORE.

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