Private investment key to 'Net Zero' Initiative
A two-megawatt solar panel array at Fort Carson, Colo., produces enough power for 540 homes.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 7, 2011) -- The Army is collaborating with private-sector investors to increase energy efficiency and cost savings.

Partnerships with industry will help the Army achieve Net Zero Energy Installations -- ones that produce as much renewable energy on site as they use over the course of a year, said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and the Environment.

These systems include power-purchase agreements, enhanced-use leases, energy- savings performance contracts and utilities energy-service contracts which can all help the Army shift to more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly operations during a time of budget constraints, said Hammack.

While stewardship of the environment is a motivating factor, shifting toward energy efficiency on Army installations is crucial to national security according to the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review.

This shift is visible across the spectrum of Army operations, including those in combat zones where fuel and water comprise 70 to 80 percent of ground resupply by weight, said Hammack.

"Over time, we would like energy efficiency integrated into everything that we do," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Privatization Richard Kidd.

Contracting mechanisms that may help the Army achieve its efficiency goals include the energy-savings performance contract wherein a contractor installs, maintains, and finances energy and energy-related improvements, and guarantees the resulting savings which are used to pay for the project over time.

Another tool is the enhanced use lease which allows the government to out-lease available non-excess real property to the private sector in return for cash and/or in-kind services typically used for energy-related retrofits.

"Whenever we talk energy improvements, we talk first about people," said Kidd.

Informing people why energy and water are critical resources that should be conserved and better managed is also part of the strategy, he said. One method of communicating the importance of conservation is giving various unit commanders a mock electric bill each month.

"Every month when they have a commanders' meeting, the commanders get mock bills for their units and then they do comparatives," said Hammack.

Commanders are encouraged to find out what behaviors led comparable units to have higher or lower bills with the end goal being to adopt behaviors that promote conservation and efficiency.

Currently, there are 250 utilities energy-service contract task orders at 30 installations with an estimated 750 billion British Thermal Unit, or BTU energy savings each year. Utilities energy-service contract private-sector investments total $336 million thus far with $100 million more in development.

Today, there are 130 energy-savings performance contract task orders at 60 installations. This results in a 1.6 trillion British Thermal Unit energy savings each year. Private-sector investments of this type total $865 million with $850 million more in development.

Especially when the cost of meeting energy-efficiency and renewable-energy goals would not otherwise be feasible given current budgetary constraints, the benefits of partnering with private-sector investors are numerous, according to Hammack.

Page last updated Mon July 25th, 2011 at 18:31