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Budget cuts slow Army's efforts to save energy

Dec. 11, 2013 - 06:06PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
At Fort Carson, Colo., the Army partnered with a local energy provider to build a 2-megawatt photovoltaic solar array. Budget cuts are hampering energy efficiency efforts.
At Fort Carson, Colo., the Army partnered with a local energy provider to build a 2-megawatt photovoltaic solar array. Budget cuts are hampering energy efficiency efforts. (Army)
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Congressional budget cuts have forced the Army to scale back its efforts to become more energy efficient and generate more renewable energy, a top Army official said.

Richard Kidd, the Army’s deputy assistant secretary for energy and sustainability, said Nov. 20 at a panel discussion in Arlington, Va., that the Army had to cancel $250 million in energy projects in fiscal 2013 because of budget cuts.

He said the Army has also had to slow down its replacement of aging coal-fired boilers and plants because of a lack of funding.

But he said one of the most pressing issues is that sequestration has cut into the Army’s ability to maintain and repair its equipment and facilities — and those facilities will become less efficient over time and cost more money to maintain.

“Existing Army facilities are breaking, and they are not being repaired,” Kidd said.

He added that the longer the Army struggles with lower funding, the worse the problem will get.

“This represents a significant long-term cost liability to the country because, once they break, they are going to consume more energy, and they are going to be more expensive to fix once we get the funds,” Kidd said.

He said the lack of stable budgets is also hurting the Army’s long-term goals to meet energy efficiency mandates required by a 2009 executive order, including reducing facility and fleet energy use.

The Army is required to reduce its facility energy use by 30 percent over a 2003 baseline by fiscal 2015 and reduce water use and greenhouse-gas emissions.

The Pentagon is also pushing to reach ambitious renewable energy goals. The Air Force has said 1 gigawatt of its energy will come from renewable sources by fiscal 2016. The Department of the Navy said it will reach the same goal by fiscal 2020, and the Army, by fiscal 2025.

Kidd also attributed some of the problems to a lack of budget stability over the past few years and the number of continuing resolutions that have haphazardly funded Army operations.

The cost of continually being on continuing resolutions in terms of contract disruptions and wasted manpower expense is significant.

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Kidd said he does not think the American public or members of Congress are aware of how much the past few years of continuing resolutions have negatively affected the Army.

“You can’t really run government on containing resolutions,” Kidd said.

The Army has embarked on a number of programs in recent years to transform its energy supply and use, including:

■ Pushing for $385 million in energy savings performance contracts — where contractors pay for upfront investments in energy efficiency in exchange for payments from reduced utility bills — to upgrade systems and generate more renewable energy.

■ Establishing a “net zero” program at 17 installations to help test and implement technologies and strategies to help reduce total energy, water and waste to zero. Kidd said the Army plans on incorporating lessons learned into its wider strategy for installation management and planning.

■ Promoting the use of linked power generators and renewable energy sources — so-called “micro-grids” — that can help balance loads and reduce overall energy usage at a installation or out in the field.

Kidd said that, despite the budget cuts, the Army was making progress on renewable energy projects. He said the Army has identified 4 gigawatts of renewable energy projects that could be implemented, and that 600 megawatts are under evaluation. He said about 140 megawatts are in development.

He said, in most cases, the Army is able to get the renewable energy “at or below anticipated retail rates throughout the course of the contract.”

Kidd said the Defense Department has engaged in a culture of behavior change to demonstrate how important energy security and energy efficiency is to combat operations and installation management.

“All of the services collectively have changed the way we value energy and energy security,” Kidd said.

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