Energy Action Month means you are Air Force energy

  • Published
  • By Col. Sarah Zabel
  • Installation and 75th Air Base Wing commander
October is Energy Action Month a time for all of us to think about the importance of energy in our daily lives, the lives of our families, and in our ability to accomplish our mission. Our colleagues in the Area of Responsibility know how critical energy is as they fly missions to resupply aircraft in the skies, drop barrels of fuel to forward bases, and ensure our installations have the electricity they need. As you know, we project power directly from our installations and without electricity and fuel we can't meet our mission.

In the Air Force, and across DoD, we are in the process of realigning our force, to modernize and develop a more capable force, while meeting the budgetary limitations set by Congress. Through this process, we are finding the proper balance between the size of our force structure and readiness. And this modern force trades size for quality while continuing to ensure we are expanding our capabilities.

Energy fits directly into this broader strategy. To protect the security of our nation, we must have assured access to reliable supplies of energy and the ability to protect and deliver enough fuel to meet operational needs. The theme for Energy Action Month is "I am Air Force Energy" because we all have a role to play in ensuring energy security and achieving our mission to fly, fight and win in air, space, and cyberspace.

In 2011, the Air Force spent $9.7 billion on fuel and electricity -- more than twice what we spent ten years ago. To put that in perspective that is the same as the cost for 12 CV-22s, 14 C-17s, 36 MQ-9 drones and 25 F-22 fighters. Fuel and electricity now make up almost 10 percent of the Air Force's budget and every dollar we don't spend on energy allows us to invest that dollar into you, your family and your mission.

Beyond cost, there are risks of sole dependence on traditional energy supplies. Sole dependency exposes us to access and cost problems in the event of natural disasters, accidents, terrorism and political instability. These dependencies add risk to our core mission support functions and can jeopardize your effectiveness.

Air Force initiatives

In order to maximize funds to support you and reduce risk to our mission, the Air Force is working to Reduce Demand; Increase Supply, and Foster an Energy Aware Culture.

In aviation, our Airmen have reduced fuel consumption 4 percent since 2006 by eliminating unnecessary cargo, flying more fuel efficient routes, cleaning engines regularly, and even loading cargo in a new way to better balance aircraft. These initiatives and others have saved $165 million and that translates into more capability allowing us to transport 27 percent more cargo on just 3 percent more fuel.

We have also tested our aircraft on 50 percent alternative fuel blended with 50 percent petroleum-based fuel. This will allow the Air Force to be more flexible in the coming years as domestically- produced, clean alternatives to petroleum are made available.

In installations, you and our civil engineers have reduced facility energy intensity by 16 percent since 2003 by replacing light bulbs with energy efficient fluorescents, upgrading un-insulated windows and doors, repairing leaking water pipes, and controlling inside temperature set-points.

We also have more than 180 solar, wind and other renewable energy projects in operation or under construction at Air Force installations today. That makes the Air Force the No. 2 consumer of renewable energy in the federal government. This includes large wind and solar projects like the photovoltaic array at Nellis Air Force Base that generates 14 megawatts of electricity. Our engineers here at Hill have overseen the operation of a unique renewable project since 2005 taking landfill methane gas and generating 2.3 megawatts of electricity and 220 kilowatts of solar electrical generation since 2009.

These are mostly on-base projects that give us more control over the electricity at our facilities and ensure we are not solely reliant on the commercial grid. This flexibility improves our resiliency to allow the Air Force the capacity to survive, adapt and operate in light of energy disruptions.

In vehicles, fuel use is down 4 percent with almost 1,000 hybrid electric vehicles in service. We also have 10,000 alternative fuel capable vehicles and alternative fuel use is up 67 percent the last four years. We all see how volatile the price of gasoline can be when we fill up our own tank. These initiatives save us money and give us additional options that further increases our resiliency.

"I Am Air Force Energy"

The last piece of our strategy to foster an Energy Aware Culture, is where each and every one of us across our varied missions play a big role. The Air Force was founded on new technologies, and innovation in energy is a natural extension of this legacy. You are the most powerful change agents the Air Force has to achieve our energy objectives. Through your day-to-day activities you are having an impact on our effort to maximize funds for operational needs and improve mission effectiveness,

You help us achieve our goals when you:

· Turn off your computer monitor at the end of the day or when it is not in use for more than 20 minutes so that it can properly enter energy-saving sleep mode.

· Reduce idling in vehicles. Thirty minutes of idling burns through one gallon of gas.

· Consolidate personal appliances like coffee makers or microwaves in work.

Looking at the job you do every day -- each individual can personally impact the Air Force energy vision. Keep evaluating how you use energy, and then find ways to do it smarter.

By identifying new policies, processes and technologies in the ways that we use energy, you are helping us limit our costs, enhance our readiness,and expand our capability. Many of your fellow Airmen have already begun innovating and their hard work and ingenuity is being recognized outside DoD.

The Department of Energy recognized the work of Airmen with six Federal Energy Management Program awards this year out of fifteen competitive nominations submitted by the Air Force. These winners helped save the Air Force more than $150 million and 42 million gallons of jet fuel. These six winners are in addition to seven winners in 2011 and three in 2010.

This underlines that we are not just focused on energy because of a mandate or to meet a goal. Reducing demand, increasing supply and fostering an energy aware culture are critical to allow the Air Force greater resiliency to pursue our mission and secure the future of this nation.

The "I Am Air Force Energy" theme speaks not only to the progress that our Airmen have made but also how we all can make a difference in helping the Air Force become more energy secure.

Remember, YOU are Air Force Energy. Through efforts both big and small your innovation is key to our ability to achieve our mission and maintain an assured energy advantage in air, space, and cyberspace.