NEWS | Oct. 1, 2014

Energy security and alternative energy sources

By Catherine Cook 628th Civil Engineer Squadron energy manager

The Air Force is the largest consumer of energy in the Department of Defense and views energy as a critical component to enable its global mission. In 2013, more than $9 billion was spent on energy, including aviation fuel.  Maintaining the Air Force's critical airpower contributions to national security requires significant amounts of energy.

Energy security is defined as the assured access to reliable supplies of energy and the ability to protect and deliver sufficient energy to meet operational needs.

Because energy and fuel costs are volatile and can't be controlled, the Air Force must improve its energy security in other ways: by reducing our energy dependence and diversifying our energy supply.  One way the Air Force is accomplishing this is by increasing the use of renewable energy and alternative fuels.

The Air Force is the DOD leader in renewable energy investment. The Renewable Energy team at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center continually evaluates renewable energy opportunities worldwide and implements projects where cost effective. In 2013, the Air Force had approximately 286 renewable energy projects on 96 sites, either in operation or under construction. These projects employ a wide variety of renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, geothermal and waste-to-energy.  Air Force is currently using renewable energy for eight percent of electricity requirements.

Aviation fuel accounts for more than 80 percent of energy used by the Air Force annually. In order to decrease dependence on traditional petroleum-based fuels, the Air Force reduces consumption by improving fuel efficiency and also by using alternative fuel blends.  The Air Force has certified all aircraft to fly on a 50/50 blend of JP-8 and biofuel. On May 20, 2011, the Thunderbirds performed a full flight demonstration at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland using the 50/50 blend. This was the first aerial demonstration that used biofuels.  The aircraft showed no difference in performance compared to traditional petroleum fuel. Other Air Force milestones involving capabilities of alternative fuel include the first transcontinental flight, the first supersonic flight and the first aerial refueling using alternative fuel blends.

The use of renewable energy and alternative fuels is just part of the plan to improve energy security. Dr. Kevin Geiss, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy, once said, "We have proven as an Air Force that it is a false choice to say that we can either save energy and be more efficient or complete the mission. We have shown time and time again that we can complete the mission, and at the same time, reduce the amount of energy required for that mission as well as doing it more efficiently and effectively."

The Air Force continues to show through their strategic energy plan that smart use of energy enables our warfighters, expands our operational effectiveness, and helps accomplish its mission. Because energy security equals national security.