U.S. Air Force flies high on energy efficiency

The U.S. Air Force, the largest single energy consumer in the federal government, released its Energy Strategic Plan, which will continue its successful efforts in cutting energy use.

Last year, the Air Force spent $9 billion on energy -- 8 percent of its total budget -- and more than 85 percent of that was for jet fuel. That's after saving $1.5 billion in energy costs in 2012.

To put that in perspective, the federal government consumes 1 percent of all U.S. energy, and most of that goes to the Department of Defense (DoD). The Air Force uses almost half of the energy of the DoD.

"That, of course, means that even moderate improvements in our conservation, in our efficiency, can drive very large dollar savings that can enable us to invest in other vitally needed capabilities," said Dr. Jamie Morin, acting undersecretary of the Air Force, in a statement.

The Air Force has cut aviation fuel consumption 12 percent, exceeding its goal of 10 percent by 2015, and plans to use biofuels for 50 percent of domestic aviation by 2016.

It has also reduced the "energy intensity" of buildings by more than 21 percent since 2003 and is on track to meet its target of cutting that 37.5 percent by 2020.

IBM's software is being used to maximize energy efficiency across its entire infrastructure in 170 locations around the world.

"We need to, and are focusing on the capability we get out of energy, each gallon, each watt of electricity," Morin said in a statement. "We are changing the way we operate."

Last year, renewable energy supplied 5.5 percent of the Air Force's electricity. The goal is to raise that to 25 percent by 2025 -- 1 gigawatt by 2016.

Four priorities are in the new Energy Strategic Plan, the first update since 2010: improve resiliency, reduce demand, assure supply and foster an energy aware culture.

"We are not, and will not, accept the notion that one has to choose between energy efficiency and mission accomplishment," Morin said. "What I think we've demonstrated over the last several years, and will continue to demonstrate, is that those can be complimentary and mutually reinforcing goals."

Last year, the Department of Defense released its Clean Energy Implementation Plan, which will "transform the way" it uses energy. It commits DoD to sourcing 25 percent of its energy from renewables by 2025.

This article reprinted with permission from SustainableBusiness.

Photo of four U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds provided by Don Sullivan via Flickr.