Navy sets ambitious energy goals

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Wednesday outlined five ambitious goals for decreasing reliance on petroleum and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Energy reform is a strategic initiative and the stakes are very high," Mabus told Navy and Marine Corps officials and defense contractors attending the Naval Energy Forum in Northern Virginia. "We simply rely too much on a declining stock of fossil fuels that most likely will continue to rise in cost over the next decade."

In an effort to shift that reliance on fossil fuel, Mabus said he will direct the Navy and Marine Corps to begin weighing the life-cycle energy costs associated with all acquisitions when making contract awards.

"The lifetime energy costs of building a system and the fully burdened cost of fuel of empowering those [weapons systems] will be a mandatory evaluation factor used in awarding contracts," Mabus said. "We're going to hold industry contractually accountable for meeting energy targets and system efficiency requirements."

The department also will consider contractors' overall energy efficiency as a factor in making acquisition decisions. "We want industry to take steps to not just provide us with energy-efficient products, but to produce those products in energy efficient ways," he said.

In addition to adjusting its approach to acquisition, the Navy by 2012 will establish a "green strike group" of fuel-efficient ships, with some running on biofuels. By 2016, that strike group will deploy as a "green fleet composed of nuclear-powered ships, surface combatants equipped with hybrid-electric alternative power systems running biofuel and aircraft flying only biofuels," he said.

Other goals outlined by the secretary include:

  • By 2015, the Navy will cut in half the petroleum consumption of its 50,000-vehicle fleet. As vehicles go out of service, they will be replaced with flex-fuel, hybrid and electric vehicles. "Moving to biofuels and electric vehicles will benefit the local communities where bases are located and will spur the adoption of similar vehicles [locally]," Mabus said.
  • By 2020, the Navy will produce at least half of its shore-based energy from alternative sources, with the goal of returning power to the electric grid wherever possible.
  • By 2020, the Navy will ensure that 50 percent of the total energy consumed by ships, aircraft, vehicles and shore facilities is supplied through alternative and renewable sources. Today that figure is 17 percent.
None of the goals will require legislative action, Mabus said. He cited advances in biofuels and recent improvements in engine efficiency for both ships and aircraft as evidence they are reachable.

"No one has ever gotten anything big done by being timid," he said.

CORRECTION: The original story misspelled the name of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

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