George Kai’iliwai, Director, Resources and Assessment, of the U.S. Pacific Command, recently spoke at the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo, addressing the role of the military in helping solve the world’s energy challenges.
According to Ka’iliwai, military technologies are potential game-changers in the energy world. This talk is especially relevant in Hawaii, given the state’s strategic military importance and preponderance of bases. Military spending accounts for the number two source of money in the state, second only to tourism. According to Ka’iliwai, it was clear after a short term shutdown of the grid on Oahu in December 2008 that the military here was completely dependent on a fragile energy infrastructure, which doesn’t bode well for how we could respond to an attack that targets our aging electricity system. So what’s the military doing?
The US Pacific Command (PaCom) includes 36 countries and islands. It includes some of the world’s largest developing nations (China and India). There is an insufficient supply of fossil fuel energy in the region, and most countries in the region are net importers of oil. There are, however, abundant renewables, with commercially viable sun and wind power resources throughout.
In October 2009, PaCom signed off on the clean energy goals in Hawaii. In essence, the military here is committing to 70% renewable/clean energy by 2050. They’ve committed $500M in joint photovoltaic projects. They are also engaged in the Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative, according to Ka’iliwai, signed in Oct 2010.
Not to miss an opportunity for a cool acronym, the military has started the Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS). It’s a strong strategic imperative from the military, which aims to assure a stable power structure even with disruptions in oil and natural gas supply lines. They’re soliciting requests for proposals for phases 1 and 2. Interested parties can find these on the federal business opportunities website, www.fbo.gov.
The military has also launched the Green Initiative for Fuels Transition in the Pacific (GIFTPAC). This includes a $510M drop-in advanced biofuels RFP/RFI (request for information), which can also be found on FBO.gov, search for “drop-in biofuels.” In essence, they’re looking to displace about 25% of their jet fuel with biofuels, while also making clear they’re not trying to displace food out of agricultural land productivity.
Sitting in the crowd, listening to all the acronyms and upright, succinct commentary, I found it vaguely reminiscent of the scene in Fahrenheit 9/11 where military contractors gathered to bid on Iraq reconstruction before the war even began, and the commentator said not to worry about the price tag because the “government was paying for it.” Now, those moneys are being proposed for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy independence. What a difference 8 years and a new administration makes! I, for one, hope we never return to an era of war profiteering (I’m assuming here that we’re actually leaving that era?), and to turn a corner to what the DoD is actually supposed to be about: defense and security. And that includes reducing our ties to foreign oil.
Scott Cooney is the developer of a new Triple Bottom Line, Monopoly-esque board game, and the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill).