Smart Energy, Strong Defense
For the US military, reducing energy consumption and employing green technologies has little to do with saving money or the planet, and even less to do with politics. It's about a broader mission that has always defined the U.S. Armed Forces—protecting Americans at home and abroad. Increased access to clean and reliable energy means increased efficiencies and performance of all aspects of operations, including base and facility operations, transportation and portable soldier power.
“It’s not about reducing energy usage and the overall bills, but about saving lives,” says Colonel Peter Newell, director of the Army's Rapid Equipping Force (REF), an organization that measures the effectiveness of equipment in relation to soldiers on the ground. “At the tactical edge, we don’t look at energy efficiency in terms of saving gallons, we count it in lives saved. That’s really what we focus on."
Newell and REF have been working with a number of departments within the military along with the private sector and universities to find cutting-edge solutions for products to support the Energy to the Tactical Edge (2E) initiative, a subset of the Army's larger Net Zero program. REF's Net Zero solutions packages, provided to companies deploying to Afghanistan, focus on three types of solutions: soldier power, fixed site power and mobile power. As soldiers are given increasingly more energy-reliant equipment to carry, Swipes—a harness that provides central power—are being used to prevent having to carry additional batteries. The batteries are equally reliant, but weigh 33 percent less than what soldiers were required to carry before. Naturally, if a soldier has less to carry around and more reliable sources of power to rely on, he/she has a greater chance of survival.
As for mobile power, special mission equipment like robotic vehicles are being deployed, with battery charging capability provided by generators, fuel cells and solar panels. For fixed-site power, systems consisting of battery banks and solar arrays reduce the size of previous generators at remote bases, while improving efficiency. The new systems reduce the number of trips the larger bases need to make to remote operating bases for maintenance and resupplying. That is especially critical for areas like Afghanistan, where troops are drawing down, but spreading out.
“You now have more space to cover, and fewer guys,” Col. Newell explained to Forbes. “The same soldiers who have to move fuel back and forth to the remote bases are the ones who are supposed to be working with the Afghan army, securing various areas. These guys are doing the yeoman’s work of force, and we’re getting more and more requests from commanders to help make outposts and OPs [observation posts] more self-sustaining so that they’re not having to go out there and resupply all the time. Resupply is a combat operation, and it takes away combat power that’s supposed to be doing other things.”
More recently, the Navy started using a 300-watt solar battery generator, or Ground Renewable Expeditionary system (GREENS), which utilizes rechargeable batteries and solar power. That ultimately allows Marines in remote areas to have continuous supplies of power, reducing the amount of fuel needed to be transported to dangerous combat areas.
Vehicle convoys in Afghanistan and Iraq face incredible threats in fuel resupply transportation, which has accounted for thousands of deaths over the course of the war. According to a 2009 report from Deloitte called “Energy security—America's best defense; a study of increasing dependence on fossil fuels in wartime, and its contribution to even higher casualty rates,” the development and use of alternative energy can directly reduce casualties during wartime. One casualty corresponds with every 24 fuel resupply convoys, or every 55,000 barrels of oil burned in Afghanistan, according to the report. “Greater range contributes to operational mission effectiveness and logistics sustainability; fewer fuel convoys reduce vulnerability, while providing cost and fuel savings, and freeing-up military resources for other missions,” the report concludes.
As Iran reaps revenues from the global petroleum trade, the US military's reliance on those resources are essentially keeping a regime in power that is, in turn, directly targeting American soldiers. That's why Jon Gensler, a former Army officer and Iraq war vet, works on developing solar installations for various Army bases today. In an interview with Forbes, he explains his take on the importance of reducing the military's dependence on fossil fuels:
“Any reduction in the use of fossil fuels and you’re lowering the risk of casualties,” Gensler continues. “You’re saving American lives and you’re also allowing thousands of soldiers to be repurposed to something that’s not driving a fuel truck. So there are operational efficiencies there, too. All of these things come into play.”
Energy efficiency has become more of a strategic and operational necessity than anything. Perhaps environmental advocates and the US military have a lot in common after all—they both want to save the world.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere