The U.S. military can jump-start commercialization of energy innovations by serving as a test bed for new ideas, top Department of Defense officials say.
Dorothy Robyn, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment, told the Edison Foundation’s Powering the People 2.0 conference in Washington March 22 that DOD manages over 300,000 buildings – “three times as many as Walmart” – on 28 million acres.
New buildings are constructed to be highly energy efficient, but many buildings are aging and planned for renovation. With so many facilities, she said, the military can try out innovations that aren’t yet commercial, and can become a large customer for ideas that produce results.
Asked whether trying out innovations means the military pays too much, Richard Kidd, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, Energy and Sustainability, said he thinks not. For instance, the military is fostering renewables by making land available on some bases for renewable generating facilities, such as solar panels. The Army is able to offer the land for a new project and a long-term power purchase agreement, “up to 30 years,” said Kidd, which virtually no other potential customer can do, keeping the power price down.
For building efficiencies, the military is turning heavily to “performance contracting,” under which private companies upgrade buildings and earn their profits from the savings. President Obama ordered government agencies in December to use more performance contracting, and Kidd said the Army already has over $900 million in savings “in the pipeline.”