Proceedings, July 2012
On 14 October 2011, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus shared his vision of the â€śGreat Green Fleetâ€ť at the Naval Energy Forum in McLean, Virginia. The Honorable Mr. Mabus remarked that â€śin the drive for energy reform the goal has got to be increased warfighting capability.â€ť Increased warfighting capability through energy reform? Is this really possible under the secretaryâ€™s timeline of the next ten years, or will warfighters be left with another constraint on their way into the combat zone?
Secretary Mabus effectively communicated how energy reform in the Department of Defense could immediately reduce our nationâ€™s dependence on foreign oil. But at what cost? For many in the armed services, â€śenergy efficiencyâ€ť might conjure images of turning down the thermostat, putting on a sweater, and learning to enjoy cold showers. For the surface Navy, an effective way to cut fuel consumption would be to remain pierside. While fighting wars, however, cutting corners and decreasing underway training time can cost lives. Metaphorical sweaters and cold showers decrease the Navyâ€™s capability and do not meet the secretaryâ€™s intent.
The important distinction in the secretaryâ€™s remarks is that he established himself as a champion of energy efficiency, not conservation. Although military professionals may be masters of doing more with less, energy efficiency on board our warships will instead involve doing the same with less. Or, alternatively, doing more with the same: increased warfighting capability through energy efficiency.
In the past few yearsÂ ProceedingsÂ has published several articles on energy reform, a topic that has gained publicity as our nationâ€™s tremendous appetite for oil and our foreign policy collide.Â 1Â But many ideas, including those featured in this magazine, have extensive lead times, prohibitive up-front costs, and require significant infrastructure changes. Developing alternative fuels and driving reverse-hydrolysis with our shipboard nuclear reactors while in port might lead to energy independenceâ€”but all of the secretaryâ€™s goals fall within the next ten years. What can be done in the meantime?
The surface Navyâ€™s response to rising fuel costs and budget constraints in Fiscal Year 2009 was to drastically curtail underway steaming days at the cost of unit-level training. These restrictions spilled into FY 10, and commanding officers can now anticipate only a handful of underway days each quarter to train their crews for combat readiness. The secretaryâ€™s energy goals likely have planners in every numbered fleet wringing their hands and preparing to chop even more underway time from schedules. This hardly meets the intent of increased warfighting capability. This is energyÂ conservationÂ , notÂ efficiencyÂ .
Many ships have adapted to the new constraints and have found innovative ways to reduce their fuel consumption. In â€śConserving Fuel at Sea,â€ť authors Commander Glenn P. Kuffel and Lieutenant Commanders Barry Palmer and Mary Katey Hays outline several ways the USSÂ CarneyÂ (DDG-64) saved significant amounts of fuel by reducing the redundancy of their engineering plant during restricted-waters transits. If risks are effectively mitigated, this can be a practical course of action to save fuel, however, this is another example of energy conservation and certainly cannot be argued to increase warfighting capability. But what other options does the surface Navy have?
Although little known, the results of a study the Department of the Navy commissioned nine years ago could drasticallyâ€”and immediatelyâ€”decrease energy use throughout the surface fleet. From December 2000 to January 2001 the Navy chartered a group of scientists from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) to evaluate the potential savings from energy efficiency on board the USSÂ PrincetonÂ (CG-59). RMI discovered that the typical at-sea electrical load could be reduced anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent, which could reduce fuel usage by between 10 percent and 25 percent.Â 2Â These savings could bring the surface fleet much of the way toward Secretary Mabusâ€™ energy-reform goals.
RMIâ€™s 129-page report is extremely detailed in terms of both engineering and cost-savings analysis and includes recommendations for retrofitting fire pumps so firemains can remain pressurized without keeping two large pumps online 24 hours a day: â€śRework fittings and the control system to maintain fire system pressure with a [variable-speed drive]-equipped lead pump and a backup pump in automatic startup mode, or small jockey pumps instead of the large fire pumps.â€ťÂ 3
Most of the reportâ€™s recommendations are retrofits and could be added immediately into the continuous maintenance availabilities of ships throughout the Fleet. For example, RMIâ€™s fluorescent lighting systems retrofits could reduce the number of lamps necessary in a given space by using dimming electronic ballasts and reflectors to increase output per lamp. This retrofit would pay for itself in energy savings in less than one year.Â 4Â These improvements will cut into maintenance budgets but would decrease operational budgets for years to come. This is what Secretary Mabus envisioned when he heralded â€ślifetime energy costsâ€ť to the Naval Energy Forum.
Further, â€śAll of RMIâ€™s recommendations and suggestions aim to increase operational effectiveness, and at a minimum, in no way to reduce combat effectiveness or resilience.â€ťÂ 5Â Such language seems prophetic in light of the secretaryâ€™s recent vision for the Great Green Fleet: â€ś. . . to lower our reliance on fossil fuels, we need to improve the efficiencies of our systems and develop platforms that operate as a system of systems, are integrated together, and reduce our tactical vulnerability.â€ť
What does efficiency mean, tangibly, for our Navy ships? Since the surface fleet runs on marine diesel fuel, to the surface warfare officer this means more miles traveled for underway training or operational tasking and more electricity delivered to combat suites with fewer underway replenishments. And for our nation, less dependency on foreign oil. This also translates to enormous potential savings in operational budgets and more operational capability. In sum, increased warfighting capability through energy efficiency.
Secretary Mabus issued a challenge for energy reform. The surface Navy can either meet his fuel-savings goals through conservation by remaining pierside to the detriment of its warfighting capability, or it can rise to the occasion through large-scale implementation of energy efficiency retrofitting to become the Great Green Fleet he envisions.
1. See â€śGet on Board with Alternative Fuels,â€ťÂ ProceedingsÂ December 2008; â€śWeaning the Navy from Foreign Oil,â€ť January 2009; and â€śConserving Fuel at Sea,â€ť June 2009.
2. Amory Lovins, Chris Lotspeich, Ron Perkins, Jim Rogers, and Edwin Orrett, â€śRocky Mountain Institute Energy Efficiency Survey aboard USSÂ PrincetonÂ CG-59,â€ť 30 June 2001, 5.
3. Ibid., 24.
4. Ibid., 103.
5. Ibid., 8.