The Trump administration appears to be taking a swing at both states' rights and national security. A forthcoming Department of Energy study on grid reliability ordered by Energy Secretary Rick Perry appears to be designed to undermine state's renewable energy leadership based on purported national security concerns. This position goes against everything the national security community has learned about energy security over the past few decades.
The U.S. military is leading by example in developing and employing smart new clean energy technologies at scale. If the Department of Defense were a corporation, it would be the biggest business in the United States. It manages more than 500,000 buildings with over 2.2 billion square feet. That is over Wal-Mart currently operates.
Energy touches every part of the military's mission, and domestically it must ensure energy security and reliability to fulfill that mission. Whether it be drone flights over the Middle East that are piloted out of Air Force hangars in Nevada or vital communications systems supporting Naval fleets in the Pacific, they all need to be able to operate regardless of how the local grid is running.
A recent study found 90 percent of the country's critical power needs could be met by renewable energy. For the Department of Defense, the transition is an operational imperative. That is why the Army, Navy, and Air Force are each pursuing an impressive goal to develop one gigawatt of renewable energy to power their installations by 2025 — enough to power about 700,000 U.S. homes. The Navy has already met its goal years ahead of schedule.
Building a modern energy system that makes use of our plentiful renewable resources and American ingenuity is key to our grid security and national security. In fact, the real vulnerability would be continued reliance on a model of centralized power plants delivering energy over an antiquated grid — a relic from the time of Thomas Edison.
This outdated energy system burdens us with regular outages and seasonal price spikes that range from inconvenient to catastrophic. Hurricane Sandy demonstrated just how costly continued dependence on that antiquated energy system can be. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the total cost of damage from this super storm was almost $70 billion. Major operations up and down the East Coast were shut down. Local utilities in Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut could not provide reliable power to customers for weeks.
Whether it was big box stores, office buildings, or data centers, finding the fuel to put into their diesel generators was nearly impossible as they competed against hospitals and military operations during the clean-up. This is not the first time extreme weather has crippled our outdated grid's ability to service its customers. The 2014 polar vortex froze stockpiles of coal and interrupted on-site fuel supply in the eastern and southern U.S., contributing to over 35,000 megawatts of outages at the height of the event. Strong wind power production during this time helped grid operators both fill in power supply gaps and battle surging power prices.
This year, the U.S. Army contracted solar and wind to power about half of Fort Hood's operations, the largest active-duty armored post in the U.S. It did so for security reasons- to ensure that the base has access to power if the grid is attacked, for instance- and will save taxpayers millions in the process.
The administration should not be shackling states' ability to create real energy security that moves our country forward. Our nation's economic competitiveness and security both depend on our ability to lead on clean energy. America's military knows this. We urge Perry to keep our country pointed towards that more resilient 21st-century approach to energy.
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