US Navy Puts Teeth Into Its Big Green Policy

To read the document “OPNAV Instruction 4100.5E” [PDF] is to slide into a fantasy world where the science on global warming isn’t denied, energy efficiency is aggressively pursued and clean power is accepted as cost-effective and an enhancement to security.

This fresh dictum from the U.S. Navy covers what the service calls “shore energy management” – i.e., “congressionally reportable facilities and vehicle energy consumption on permanent installations.” What the Navy is doing, in 25 pages of meticulously outlined and footnoted text, is codifying its commitment to lowering consumption, integrating renewable energy sources and increasing control of its energy supply and distribution.

Navy energy security

image via U.S. Navy

In other words, unlike the country, the Navy has a rational energy policy.

In part this reflects a wider legal requirement under which the U.S. military operates, Section 2911 of Title 10 of the United States Code, which states: “It shall be the goal of the Department of Defense … to produce or procure not less than 25 percent of the total quantity of facility energy it consumes within its facilities during fiscal year 2025 and each fiscal year thereafter from renewable energy sources.”

But the Navy is going several steps further. It says it will reduce its energy consumption by 50 percent by 2020, and that by that date half of the energy it does consume will come from alternative sources.

Also by 2020, 50 percent of Navy installations will be “net-zero consumers.” And by 2015, the service will use 50 percent less petroleum in its commercial vehicle fleet.

To the Navy’s thinking, it’s mostly a matter of security.

“Energy security is critical because warfighters need assured access to reliable supplies of energy to meet operational needs afloat or ashore,” said Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics, Vice Adm. Phil Cullom.

The Navy said it will meet its goals by establishing “a tailored energy consumption goal for each installation” that will aggregate to 50 percent total energy reduction.

“By increasing energy efficiency, Navy can reduce operating costs, multiply the impact of current and future alternative energy sources and achieve DoN renewable energy targets,” the Navy said.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.