Last week, I discussed a presentation delivered at the Santa Barbara Summit on Energy Efficiency by Julie Christodoulou, Director Naval Materials Division for Office of Naval Research. During her presentation, Christodoulou stated that the Department of the Navy (DON) is pursuing some concrete energy efficiency and reliability goals, including a 50% reduction of non-tactical petroleum by 2015 and a 50% increase of alternative energy use by 2020.
The DON is not alone in its concern for—and commitment to—increased energy efficiency and security. As you may or may not know, the US military is actually the single largest consumer of energy in the world. And with that energy demand comes a complex and varied infrastructure able to control and deliver power when and where it’s needed. In that light, it makes perfect sense that, according to a new report released this week by Pike Research, the Department of Defense (DOD), along with other military operations based domestically and around the world, is making clean—and reliable—energy a main priority, both as a way to increase energy independence and improve energy efficiency.
And with that commitment to energy independence and efficiency comes real funding: the Pike Research report predicts that spending on renewable energy will rise rapidly over the next 20 years, from $1.8 billion in 2010 to $26.8 billion by 2030. That investment in renewable energy technology should not be understated—funneling those funds into research and development could significantly impact clean energy technologies.
In a statement released in conjunction with the report, Pike Research president Clint Wheelock pointed out the influential nature of the DOD’s funding, saying “Military investment in renewable energy and related technologies, in many cases, holds the potential to bridge the ‘valley of death’ that lies between research & development and full commercialization of these technologies. As such, the myriad of military initiatives focused on fostering cleantech is anticipated to have a substantial impact on the development of the industry as a whole. This presents a sizable market opportunity for defense contractors, project developers and systems integrators, and technology developers across all renewable energy sectors.”
The report itself is intended to provide “a comprehensive examination of military applications for renewable energy and related clean technologies including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydrokinetic energy, biofuels and synfuels, fuel cells, microgrids, smart meters, and energy efficiency, among others.” The conclusions reached in the study are based on an analysis of the economic and performance characteristics of new energy technologies across a wide swath of applications—from facilities to transportation to mobile power devices.
Some of the key questions addressed in the study include:
* What is the National Security Mandate to incorporate renewable energy technologies into the mainstream of military and DOD activities?
* What are the key DOD energy consumption and renewable energy initiatives for facilities and infrastructure?
* How much fuel does the DOD fuel consume and what are the leading alternative fuel initiatives?
* What are the key renewable energy initiatives to support soldier power and forward operating bases?
* What is the current status and direction of advancement of renewable energy technology for the DOD?
* What are the expected near term and long term trends for DOD development and incorporation of renewable energy and related clean energy technologies?
So what do you think? Could this shift to renewable energy on the part of the US military be interpreted as the beginning of a national energy “sputnik moment?” Can we expect the same sort of advances and “trickle down” technologies that we experienced in the decades following the space race? And with budget talks stalling and local economies strapped, could the new solution for the energy industry involve riding on the coat tails of military spending?