Pew report unveils U.S. military’s potential to lead clean energy technology

clean energy, energy efficiency, renewable energy The Pew Charitable Trusts released a report detailing how the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is investing more and more in clean energy technology, a move that will save money, better protect troops and boost the American clean energy industry.

The biggest energy consumer in the U.S. and one of the biggest institutional energy users in the world, the DoD upped its clean energy investments from $400 million to $1.2 billion between 2006 and 2009 and expects to reach $10 billion by 2030.

In what technologies is the DoD investing?

The DoD is focusing its investment on three key areas: vehicle efficiency, advanced biofuels and energy efficiency and renewable energy at bases.

The armed forces’ dependence on oil is one of the biggest problems facing the DoD. According to the Pew report, oil accounts for 80 percent of the department’s energy consumption at a rate of 375,000 barrels a day, more than all but 35 countries. Because of oil’s volatile prices, the difficulty of transporting it, safety risks and its hindrance on operational effectiveness, the DoD is developing clean energy technology for more efficient ships, aircraft and ground vehicles.

Advanced biofuels is another important component of reducing oil dependence. The Air Force has pledged that biofuels will account for 50 percent of its fuel consumption by 2015, while the Navy and the Marines plan to meet the same goal by 2020. The DoD is already successfully testing and certifying alternative fuel sources for use in ships and jets.

The DoD is also developing and deploying clean energy technology to improve the efficiency of its more than 500,000 structures around the world. Initial efforts have shown the technology’s potential. For example, by insulating 9 million square feet of its base structures in Iraq and Afghanistan, the department was able to reduce energy consumption by 77,000 gallons per day.

Other measures include developing lighter and longer-lasting batteries, integrating fuel cells, exploring renewable energy generation and investing in microgrids. Spending on renewable energy is expected to grow from $3 billion in 2015 to $10 billion in 2030, with the DoD accounting for 15 percent of the microgrid market by 2013.

A mutually beneficial project for the DoD and America’s clean energy market

The DoD’s growing interest in clean energy will not only benefit the armed forces, but also the American economy. Infamous for its role in technology innovation, the DoD has the opportunity to do for clean energy what it did for GPS and the Internet.

Backed by significant purchasing power and the means to research and test new products, the department helps make new technologies ready for the commercial sector. The DoD is present all over the world, in different climates and geographic situations, an ideal way to prove a product’s staying power. American citizens also trust the DoD, as shown in a 2009 Gallup poll that reported overall public support for the department at 78 percent.

But the most significant value of the DoD’s investment in clean energy is its capacity to boost energy technology. The DoD will help clean energy innovations become affordable for average consumers, urge the creation of products that would have taken much longer to develop otherwise and serve as a role model for other government agencies and corporations wanting to make the switch to clean energy. It also collaborates closely with the private sector for its development projects, which creates jobs and pumps money into the economy.

With all of these shared benefits, the DoD is sure to propel the future of clean energy in the right direction.

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