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Pentagon Kicks Off Bid for Round-the-Clock Renewable Energy (2)

Feb. 3, 2022, 3:00 PMUpdated: Feb. 3, 2022, 3:58 PM

The Pentagon is asking the renewable power sector for information that could help power the military with 24/7 clean energy.

The move, announced Thursday, sends a clear market signal to the rapidly growing clean energy industry, as the Defense Department is the federal government’s biggest energy consumer and one of the biggest in the world.

The request for information only addresses electricity for military installations, not renewable fuels for fighter jets or other tactical vehicles, according to Joe Bryan, the Defense Department’s senior adviser for climate and its chief sustainability officer.

“We need to learn a little bit before we can start buying things, so we’re saying, ‘Here’s a bunch of questions. Tell us how we can get to this objective,’” Bryan said. “It’s really a first very ambitious but deliberate approach into the market to fulfill the president’s really ambitious objectives.”

As part of the request, the Pentagon wants to learn more about how industry can supply the required renewable power, collect pricing information, and gather data from industry on possible approaches about how to meet the targets laid out in President Joe Biden’s federal sustainability plan. The military is also interested in nuclear power providers.

The General Services Administration is also taking part in the request. Most of the federal government’s electricity purchases come through contracts issued by GSA. The agency currently has more than 170 energy contracts in 45 states, according to an agency spokeswoman.

The GSA will be “ramping up its internal capacity” to meet the new Biden sustainability goals, the spokeswoman said.

Secure, Reliable Power

Bryan said the move toward renewables will help bolster U.S. national security by helping secure reliable domestic power as energy markets evolve.

He also said he doesn’t anticipate problems in finding providers who can deliver renewable energy at a reasonable price because the sector is growing so rapidly. Renewables made up 12% of U.S. energy consumption in 2020, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The military has already been blending more renewable energy into its portfolio. Solar energy was the Pentagon’s most widely-used renewable energy source in fiscal 2020, accounting for 38% of its renewable portfolio.

Biden has laid out a climate goal of pivoting the federal government to zero-carbon energy use by 2030, including 50% on a round-the-clock basis.

The move “sends a clear signal to the market” that the military is going to become a major consumer of renewable energy, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said in a statement.

The Pentagon uses some 77% of the federal government’s total energy consumption, according to its 2021 energy management and resiliency report. That total is more than 15 times the energy consumption of the next-biggest federal agency, the U.S. Postal Service, the report said.

The Defense Department spent some $3.45 billion on installation energy in fiscal 2020, including $3.3 billion to power, heat, and cool buildings; and $0.15 billion to fuel its fleet of non-tactical vehicles, according to the report.

The Pentagon’s largest consumer of installation facility energy in fiscal 2020 was the Army, at 36% of the military’s total spending. The next-highest user was the Air Force, at 30%, and the Navy,at 28%.

(Updated with additional reporting in 6th and 7th paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Lee in Washington at stephenlee@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergindustry.com