As the single largest consumer of energy in the U.S., the Department of Defense (DoD) has embarked on an ambitious program of expanded renewable energy generation on U.S. military bases and in the field, with a goal of producing 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2025.
It’s true that the U.S. military could save hundreds of millions of dollars per year by swapping its diesel-powered backup generators for more energy efficient microgrids. According to Power Begins at Home, a report commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts, microgrids enhance our military’s energy security against the threat of grid outages from extreme weather or cyberattacks. They would also help the DoD achieve its efficiency and renewable energy commitments.
Renewable energy is not just a “policy objective” for our armed forces. For the U.S. Military, renewable energy isn’t political–it’s an “operational imperative.” Renewable energy sources and technologies like microgrids carry tremendous benefits for the safety, security, and effectiveness of our military–and thus, our country. Renewable energy and efficiency improvements doesn’t only increase warfighter capability; it enhances the energy security of its installations and reduces energy costs of military base operations.
Fuel keeps our Air Force planes in the sky, our navy ships at sea, and army troops in the field. And yet, reliance on energy also “tethers” these combat elements to their sources of supply — restricting their range and mobility.
At the end of the day, alternative energy makes service men and women more agile and effective at their jobs. Indeed, the military views energy efficiency as an imperative for improving performance and reducing risk. But beyond combat advantages, energy efficiency is also seen as one of the best ways to increase energy security on our home turf, in the U.S.
Anticipated actions by the Trump administration and Congress will likely result in a significant rollback of the Pentagon’s renewable energy and climate initiatives. Some remain hopeful that the Pentagon’s clean-energy programs could be hard to nullify, as they are tied to the military mission or meet a specific tactical need. While Pentagon energy initiatives that reduce the military’s logistics burden should continue to receive support, more comprehensive efforts by the Defense Department to increase use of renewable energy and curb the effects of climate change — programs that served as an extension of Obama’s national energy policies — are unlikely to survive.
For veterans who are interested in alternative energy, there are a number of programs available. Here’s a snapshot:
- SunShot Initiative’s Solar Ready Vets program connects our nation’s skilled veterans to the solar energy industry, preparing them for careers as solar photovoltaic (PV) system installers, sales representatives, system inspectors, and other solar-related occupations.
- As the demand for renewable energy has grown, veterans not only work in renewable energy companies, but some have launched their own solar businesses. Veteran Solar Systems in New York and Semper Solaris in Southern California are two examples.
- Operation Free is a coalition of veterans and national security experts who believe oil dependence and climate change pose threats to our national security. The group advocates for securing America with clean energy.
- Troops To Energy Jobs helps veterans make a successful transition to a career in the energy industry.