October is Energy Action Month. It is 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 operating 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 the Department of Defense, we are in the process of realigning our force; to modernize and enhance capabilities. 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 10 years ago. 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. This dependency challenges us 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.
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 by four 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 three 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.
On 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 number two 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. Davis-Monthan will be breaking ground again in November to build a 14.5 megawatt photo voltaic array connected to the base’s electric grid. The average savings will be $500,000 a year. It will also replace a portion of current fossil-fuel generated electricity with renewable energy (approximately 35 percent).
The last piece of our strategy is to foster an energy aware culture, where each and every one of us across our varied missions plays a big role. The Air Force was founded on new technologies, and innovation in energy is a natural extension of this legacy. You, our Airmen, 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, 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.