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Energy Conservation an Air Force Priority

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD, Mich. -- It can be as simple as closing a door or turning off a computer monitor. Or it can be big things like a new geothermal heating and cooling system. Increasingly, the Air Force is counting on its most prized asset - its people - to work on conserving another valuable commodity - energy.

"Energy is a critical part of everything we do in the Air Force and across DOD," Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said in an August presentation at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. Reducing energy demand and increasing energy supply sources are vital areas as the department looks to identify efficiencies and expand capabilities, Donley said.

A variety of programs at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., are helping the Air Force to reduce energy usage and costs.

Energy - be it electricity in our buildings or jet fuel in our aircraft -- is a critical component of all Air Force operations and having assured access to energy is a strategic advantage," said Col. Michael T. Thomas, 127th Wing commander at Selfridge. "Everyone in the Air Force, from Airmen to civilians to contractors, can play a key role in achieving our energy goals by making energy a consideration in all that we do."

Key among the efforts of the 127th Wing, a component of the Michigan Air National Guard which serves as the host unit at Selfridge, is participation in an energy rebate program, available through DTE Energy, which supplies electricity to the 3,100-acre base. This year, the 127th Wing received rebate checks totaling $5,300, in recognition of energy savings through conservation efforts in 2011. The wing is easily on track to receive a much larger rebate in 2012, said Shannon Bergt, energy program manager for the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron at Selfridge. The wing is anticipating almost $90,000 in rebates from Consumer's Energy in November and an additional $15,000 from DTE for a large DDC project and lighting upgrades. Money from the rebates is spent directly on additional energy conservation projects around the base.

"It is all about running a leaner installation," Bergt said. "It saves the taxpayer money, it is good for the environment and, from a Dept. of Defense standpoint, it is about security. The least amount of energy it takes to operate any military base, the more energy efficient we are, the less we have to rely on outside resources."

That's why new posters are going up around the base to remind Airmen and other government workers of the importance of little things, like ensuring unused lights and computer monitors are turned off. Due to security measures, most computers need to be left on even when not in use, but monitors can be turned off.

October is Energy Awareness Month across the Air Force, a time set aside to put the focus on the cost of energy and what can be done to reduce those expenses. The Dept. of Defense is the single largest consumer of energy in the nation and the Air Force consumes more energy than any other service. DOD energy costs in fiscal year 2011 totaled $20 billion, Donley said in his August speech. The Air Force spent $9.7 billion on fuel, an amount equal to more than eight percent of the service's total budget.

"No matter how you count it, that is a significant amount, particularly when overall budgets are declining and energy costs are trending upward," Donley said. "Every dollar we don't spend on energy would allow us to invest that dollar into enhancing a high quality and ready force."

Last year, six percent of Air Force energy consumption was from renewable sources, surpassing federal goals, the secretary said. The Air Force is posturing to increase this goal to 25 percent by 2025 through the more than 180 renewable projects ongoing or under construction today.

Bergt said the 127th Wing's goal is a five percent reduction in energy usage in Fiscal Year 2013, which begins Oct. 1, 2012.

The Air Force was founded on new technologies, and innovation in energy is a natural extension of this historic legacy," Bergt said.