Hurry Up and Wait

The U.S. DOD is the single largest user of energy in the world, spending nearly $20 billion annually on heat, power and liquid fuels.
By Tim Portz | November 03, 2014

The U.S. DOD is the single largest user of energy in the world, spending nearly $20 billion annually on heat, power and liquid fuels. Combine that with an ambitious goal of 25 percent renewables by 2025, and the DOD very quickly becomes one of the most attractive market opportunities in the world for producers of renewable energy. As our team dug into the stories we produced for November Biomass Magazine, our annual examination of bioenergy use in the military, we learned that penetrating the military market brings with it the very same challenges that bioenergy producers have come to expect in the civilian marketplace.

Katie Fletcher’s page-12 feature, “Contract Vehicle in the DOD Driveway,” aptly sums up the significant divide between the military’s goals and the reality of achieving them. Fletcher quotes Amanda Simpson, executive director of the newly established Office of Energy Initiatives, who told her, “Right now, all of our long-term contracts for energy have to be at or below what we forecast the price of power from the grid to be.” While top brass inside the DOD recognizes the mission risk that being exposed to the outages the grid inevitably brings, the appetite to pay a premium for power to mitigate risk just isn’t there. In this regard, the DOD wants to have its cake and eat it too.
The news on the biofuel front is more encouraging. While we worked on this issue, the DOD awarded contracts to three different advanced biofuels players to build and commission biorefineries capable of delivering 100 million gallons of drop-in fuels. I asked the Advanced Biofuels Association’s Mike McAdams, this month’s Q&A (page 36) subject, about the importance of these contracts for his constituents, and he reported that they “move the commercial ball forward in a most significant manner.”

Anyone who has spent time in uniform has heard the expression “hurry up and wait.” Soldiers share a universal recognition of the slow-to-develop nature of things that plagues the military. The DOD is a massive enterprise charged with this country’s most critical mission, keeping its citizens safe from threats, both foreign and domestic. With that in mind, I urge the biomass community to exercise a measured patience with the pace of bioenergy deployment in the military.

Finally, the Biomass Magazine crew found itself on the road for much of October at two important industry events. We hope you enjoy the photo-rich recaps included in this issue, especially those of you who couldn’t make the trips.