By Kirk Phillips, M.SAME, Emma Skelley-Stoffa, and Christopher Fields
Energy is the unseen force that makes nearly everything in society possible—including the execution of Department of the Air Force missions to preserve national security at home and abroad. With threats to the electric grid from both adversarial actions and increasingly damaging climate events, such as the devastating February 2021 winter storms in Texas, the department recognizes it must undertake its own initiatives to enhance energy resilience and ensure missions will continue in the event of a grid outage or attack.
The Office of Energy Assurance (OEA), residing within the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC), serves as the integrator for all Department of the Air Force energy and water resilience solutions. The office provides a comprehensive, enterprise-wide approach to facility energy resilience to achieve a vision of “mission assurance through energy assurance.” OEA connects stakeholders across the department—from the secretariat level to the subject matter experts at AFCEC down to installations.
OEA works as an energy resilience integrator by applying a mission-focused lens to assess energy and water infrastructure and associated systems to identify additional resilience needs. At the center of the efforts to improve energy and water resilience across the enterprise are Installation Energy Plans (IEPs), which are critical reports that help identify requirements and gaps in a specific installation’s resilience status while documenting mitigation strategies to address them.
An important aspect of IEPs is that these reports are living documents. Installation requirements change. Missions relocate. Projects are completed that move the needle on overall resilience. IEPs need to be reviewed and refreshed annually as required by a memorandum in May 2018 from Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations & Environment. These annual reviews are a new process—and OEA is working to make it as intuitive and smooth as possible for our partners.
A test of the IEP annual review process was successfully completed during summer 2021 at MacDill AFB, Fla. As a result of the base’s participation, OEA was able to improve and refine the process, which will kick off in fall 2022 for all installations with a current IEP greater than 12 months old.
When it is time for an installation to review its IEP, OEA provides a checklist to the base energy manager to fill in any new information that may impact the plan. If OEA determines a refreshed IEP is needed, the office will work with the installation to capture updated mission requirements, projects, issues, or threats as well as any change in resilience posture and completed energy projects. OEA then will take that information and refresh the IEP so it reflects the updated resilience posture and/or resilience gaps.
The IEP is a key piece of OEA’s process: It determines the resilience needs that the office will then work to resolve with the installation and mission owners. OEA stands alongside each Air Force, National Guard, and Reserve installation throughout the process. Further, OEA’s position as an integrator, both within and outside of AFCEC, aids in gaining project support from energy program partners to champion energy resilience projects for approval.
At the end of FY2021, OEA had finished IEPs for 52 installations, including 37 on a priority list that accompanied the updated IEP policy memo in 2018. The next phase of IEPs will include seven overseas installations and will likely be completed in FY2024. OEA anticipates that all installations will have completed IEPs by FY2027.
REQUIREMENTS & CAPABILITIES
An IEP identifies mission requirements in alignment with the “5Rs” of resilience (robustness, redundancy, resourcefulness, response, and recovery). It also addresses the gaps between the requirement and an installation’s current capabilities, and high-level strategies to meet those requirements. However, plans do not propose specific energy projects to address requirements.
After an IEP is complete, both the OEA team and the installation evaluate the resilience gaps identified to develop Resilience Solution Reports (RSRs) to mitigate those critical resilience gaps. For example, an IEP might recommend “distribution hardening” or “district level energy storage,” but it will not state details as specific as “six megawatt hours of storage is needed” at a certain substation to support a mission. That is where the RSR comes in. These reports detail the solution as a full, viable project concept—including potential acquisition pathways.
OEA is dedicated to not only enhancing Department of the Air Force resilience, but to bringing the best resilience solutions to the enterprise as part of its efforts. The office evaluates multiple possible solutions before determining the final concept in an RSR. Those solutions include advanced technologies and unique acquisition methods to resolve resilience gaps. With innovation in mind, partnerships are key to OEA’s success.
LESSONS IN PREPARATION
February 2021, and the destructive winter storms that hit Texas, taught us that it is important to be prepared and proactive in order to be as resilient as possible. Despite a changing climate and stronger, more unpredictable storms, the Department of the Air Force will be ready through the efforts of OEA and its partners.
By identifying energy system vulnerabilities and gaps, improving resilience planning, and detailing solution pathways through IEPs and RSRs, OEA is helping installations meet both current and future mission demands. The office welcomes partnerships and engagements to make the Department of the Air Force more resilient and to support the vision of “mission assurance through energy assurance.”
Kirk Phillips, M.SAME, is Director, Emma Skelley-Stoffa is Energy Business Operations Senior Consultant, and Christopher Fields is Associate, Office of Energy Assurance, Air Force Civil Engineer Center. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; and firstname.lastname@example.org.
[This article first published in the March-April 2022 issue of The Military Engineer.]