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Today in Energy

February 5, 2015

Defense Department energy use falls to lowest level since at least 1975

Graph of Defense Department energy use, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Federal Energy Management Program

Energy used by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) fell to 0.75 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in fiscal year (FY) 2013, the lowest recorded level since at least FY 1975, the earliest available data from the U.S. Department of Energy's Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). DoD accounts for most of the energy consumed by the federal government. The share of federal government energy use attributed to DoD fell from 87% in FY 1975 to 78% in FY 2013—the lowest share on record.

Energy usage within DoD is divided into two areas: installation energy and operational energy. Installation energy is the energy required to run and operate military installations, which is mainly energy used in buildings but also energy used by vehicles not on combat missions. Operational energy, which accounts for 70% of total DoD energy use, is the energy required for transporting, training, and sustaining personnel and weapons specifically for military operations.

The DoD's Annual Energy Management Report estimates energy consumption across almost 300,000 buildings worldwide from more than 500 installations. Overall, the U.S. Army uses the largest portion of installation energy (34%), while the U.S. Air Force uses the largest portion of operational energy (53%), consisting mostly of jet fuel.

Graph of DoD energy consumption, as explained in the article text
Source: FY 2013 Department of Defense Annual Energy Management Report, FY 2013 Department of Defense Operational Energy Annual Report

In addition to the drawdown of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past few years, several initiatives undertaken by the federal government have contributed to the decline in DoD's installation energy usage. The Energy Independence and Security Act passed in 2007 included goals to reduce energy intensity in federal buildings. In FY 2013, DoD lowered energy intensity in its facilities by 17% compared to an FY 2003 baseline. Another provision in the same bill mandated a reduction in petroleum consumption in noncombat vehicles, and, as of FY 2013, DoD reduced petroleum consumption by 27% from an FY 2005 baseline.

In its FY 2013 Operational Energy Annual Report, DoD, along with each of its member military branches, reported on strategies to reduce operational energy use. Depending on the type of mission, DoD has invested in deploying and/or generating energy in locations where military forces operate rather than having to transport fuel long distances from delivery points. This approach could result in safer missions as well as reduce additional operational demands when replenishing energy supplies. In March 2012, DoD released an Operational Energy Strategy Implementation Plan that outlined further initiatives such as improving methods to monitor and measure energy usage, establishing goals for energy efficiency and fuel reduction in each branch of the military, and pursuing the use of alternative fuel sources.

Principal contributor: Rebecca George