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U.S. Air Force is Really Reducing Energy Use

Words by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Leadership & Transparency

The U.S. Air Force is the largest energy user in the federal government. The federal government accounts for about one percent of total U.S. energy use, most of that is used by the Department of Defense (DOD). The Air Force accounts for 48 percent of the DOD's energy costs, which equates to about 2.5 billion gallons of aviation fuel, 64 trillion BTUs a year, and 35 metric tons of carbon. In 2012, the Air Force spent over $9 billion on energy, and 85 percent went to aviation fuel, which accounted for eight percent of the Air Force's budget. In 2003, energy was only three percent of the total budget.

There is good news, however, as the Air Force is on track to meet its energy reduction goals. Last year, the Air Force avoided $1.5 billion in energy bills in comparison to the baseline years for its facility and aviation energy reduction goals. The Air Force is on track to meet its goal of reducing facility energy intensity by 37.5 percent by 2020 as it has reduced it by over 21 percent. It is also on track to meet its goals of increasing renewable energy use to 25 percent by 2025. In 2012, 5.5 percent of the Air Force's electricity came from renewable energy sources. The Air Force reduced its aviation fuel use by 12 percent, exceeding its goal of a 10 percent reduction by 2020.

We have exceeded that goal three years ahead of schedule and we've done so through the combination of activities - a combination of investments, policy initiatives, and, in total - what we've been able to do is reduce our total consumption by more than 12 percent," said Dr. Jamie Morin, acting under secretary of the Air Force, during a media roundtable in the Pentagon in March with Dr. Kevin Geiss, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for energy.
The Air Force recently released its new Energy Strategic Plan, the first update since 2010, pointed out that energy is important for all that the military branch does, and poses a financial risk. "With the austere fiscal environment facing the Air Force and the Nation, energy can pose a financial risk to the Air Force’s ability to plan, develop, and acquire the technologies and equipment necessary to sustain air, space, and cyberspace superiority," the Plan stated.

The Energy Strategic Plan contains a big goal: to become a net zero energy and water user for all new facility construction and alterations by 2030. Net zero energy is defined as "one where an installation consumes no more energy than is generated on the installation." Net zero water is defined as "reducing our demand for potable water to the greatest extent practicable by capture and reusing, repurposing, or recharging an amount of water equal to or greater than the amount of water the installation consumes." The Air Force plans to achieve this initiative by reducing its energy and water demand through conservation and culture change, plus increasing on-site energy production by using renewable energy sources.

Photo: Flickr user, walkadog