US military to spend $1.8 billion on clean energy by 2025, with 'net zero' results

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According to a report released by Boulder, Colorado-based Pike Research, the various branches of the Department of Defense (DOD) combine to form the single largest consumer of energy in the world, surpassing the consumption totals of more than 100 nations. It is now said to consume around 3.8 billion kWh of electricity and 120 million barrels of oil per year – and spend about $20 billion per year directly on energy: 75% for fuel and 25% for facilities and infrastructure.

Driven by a combination of legislation, national and international policy, strategic imperatives, and operational requirements, clean technologies are moving into the mainstream of DOD spending. Pike predicts that U.S. military spending on renewable energy programs, including conservation measures, will increase steadily over the next 12 years, reaching almost $1.8 billion in 2025.

Officially, the annual DOD budget is about $800 billion, but Pike Research estimates that the actual figure is much higher. A portion of total expenses includes the procurement of technology, vehicles, aircraft and vessels that have renewable energy or cleantech components and at least $75 billion in research and development. As such, the DOD is now one of the most important drivers of cleantech markets in the United States.

"Changes in energy policy have provided countless opportunities throughout all operations of the DOD, with examples of renewable energy projects that include targets of 1 gigawatt of renewable energy installed capacity each for the Army, Navy, and Air Force by 2025, a target of 25 percent of all energy produced or procured from renewable energy sources by 2025; and development of the Navy’s Great Green Fleet Strike Group powered by biofuel, nuclear power, synthetic fuels, and hybrid propulsion systems," said Pike Research Analyst Dexter Gauntlett. "Most of these initiatives have gained considerable momentum and many of the targets will be achieved."

Renewable energy technologies can be divided into 3 main applications: power generation and energy efficiency at U.S. bases; transportation; and soldier power. Cleantech military applications, in general, face the same opportunities and obstacles as those in the civilian U.S. market. While significant cost and reliability hurdles remain, technology cost reductions, and the use of Power Purchase Agreements and Enhanced Use Leases as contracting vehicles will enable mature technologies such as photovoltaics, biomass, wind and geothermal power to be rapidly and cost-effectively deployed at scale during the next 12 years, according to the report.

The report, "Renewable Energy for Military Applications," examines the current status and future direction of renewable energy technology at military bases and other DOD facilities. It also analyzes major military renewable energy programs by technology, including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, waste-to-energy, hydrokinetic and ocean energy, and fuel cells. Profiles of major defense contractors and other providers of renewable energy technology to the DOD are included as well.

Edited by Becky Beetz.