By Mark Correll, P.E., SES, M.SAME, and Shawn Bennett
As modern warfighting capabilities become increasingly dependent on installation energy, the U.S. Air Force must be prepared to rethink how it procures, manages, and effectively uses energy to ensure mission priorities are sustained. This challenge of continuity in an ever-growing networked and electrified world is not unique to the Air Force, however. The commercial sector is tackling analogous issues and is exploring the approach of energy-as-a-service (EaaS), a pay-for-performance model that charges a single contractor with all energy management tasks across a portfolio. Now, in lockstep with this, the Air Force is spearheading the demonstration of an EaaS business model within the federal government. The EaaS approach seeks a single contractor to oversee operations, maintenance, and investment across the installation energy delivery chain, in contrast to the current approach of acquiring energy services individually from an array of government and outsourced entities. EaaS leverages external resources to augment installation staff in the face of chronic resource constraints and changing mission requirements.
However, in defining when and where power is needed for EaaS, gaps in the Air Force’s data regarding installation energy systems have come to light. To move forward, a solid knowledge base must first be created.
PILOT SITE PROJECTS
EaaS was emerging three years ago as a potentially game-changing business model. The Air Force saw it as a potential pathway to invest in a smart, efficient way that better met their energy requirements. Under the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety & Infrastructure, two pilot sites—Altus AFB, Okla., and Hanscom AFB, Mass.—were chosen to demonstrate this concept.
In October 2018, we released a sole source justification and request for proposal to Western Farmers Electric Cooperative, the local electric utility at Altus AFB. The solicitation called for a comprehensive plan from the utility that met specific, installation-wide service standards for electric reliability, resilience, and efficiency. However, subsequent discussions highlighted gaps in our data and knowledge of whether the installation was currently meeting the stated service standards. Western Farmers and its technical consultant, GDS Associates Inc., concluded that the base needed an accurate baseline of current system performance before it could move forward.
In April 2019, we released a request for information for Hanscom AFB. Industry responses revealed a similar need for additional data and collaboration before robust proposals could be developed. It has become evident that, for both the Air Force and industry, EaaS needs to be built on a strong baseline of energy system knowledge and data.
ESTABLISHING A BASELINE
The baseline requirement reveals a need for far more fidelity and maturity in understanding energy system performance than is typically readily available for a military installation. An accurate baseline of existing conditions and system performance ensures the provider has a better understanding of what is necessary to meet performance criteria. Further, reducing the uncertainty about existing conditions helps both the Air Force and industry mitigate risk, as responsibility for meeting these standards is shifted to a single industry provider. The result should be a more competitive contractual offer price.
The data gap highlighted by the two EaaS pilots clearly displays our need for a more holistic, data-driven view of system performance. Pursuing mission assurance through energy assurance means we may need to look at developing this foundational knowledge at installations across the enterprise. Through industry engagement and internal Air Force conversations, we have come to better understand the three key components of an effective baseline.
Data collection. A detailed, boots-on-the-ground assessment should be used to create a complete system inventory that incorporates asset condition, nameplate data, and GPS coordinates of each component. Since resilience includes the ability to preserve power for mission-critical uses, facility-level energy usage and time-of-use data should also be included.
Power system model. The data collected from detailed assessments should be leveraged to build a dynamic power system model that is the lynchpin to an effective baselining effort. All distribution system equipment, on-site generation, and facility loads should be included in this model that starts at the output from the local utility transmission lines serving the installation.
System analysis. The power system model should be used to conduct multiple analyses of the installation’s electrical system for the purpose of identifying vulnerabilities and ensuring all system equipment is appropriately rated and configured. This includes studies such as a load flow analysis, a short circuit study, a sectionalizing study, and an arc flash hazard analysis.
Once established, the baseline can help identify and evaluate alternative solutions that enhance reliability, resilience, and efficiency—ranging from new distributed generation to new switchgear to targeted energy efficiency investments. Using the power system model to evaluate the impact of potential solutions can lead to more informed decisions about system changes and operations before real-life tests are run. Ultimately, it may help “rack and stack” proposed energy projects according to how well a given project improves system performance under multiple scenarios relative to cost.
Just as the local electric utility at Altus AFB proposed an electrical system baseline before it could conduct effective planning for the EaaS pilot, the Air Force must consider how to leverage power system models in planning efforts across the enterprise. As our planning and funding processes drive toward increasing energy resilience, data-driven analyses such as the power system model analysis are an important component. For example, the Air Force is rolling out Installation Energy Plans to provide a long-term planning perspective to the energy portfolio in support of resilience. The ability to model and quantitatively evaluate recommended strategies would be a beneficial means to build an action plan for future implementation.
Just as the local electric utility at Altus AFB proposed an electrical system baseline before it could conduct effective planning for the EaaS pilot, the Air Force must consider how to leverage power system models in planning efforts across the enterprise.
The good news is we are pursuing efforts to build power system models at Air Force installations. The Air Force Civil Engineer Center has supported this effort for a number of years. However, current power system models need to be further developed and, more importantly, better utilized. Future efforts should look to leverage growing data on facility loads to construct models that more accurately reflect system operations. We also need to consider how we can integrate the models into our planning and funding processes to ensure we are optimizing investments and executing those that best support the mission and maximize taxpayer dollars. In line with this need, we are supporting an effort at Hanscom AFB to develop a baseline framework in support of EaaS. The intent is to establish a scalable approach for characterizing an installation’s energy infrastructure and use profile that can evaluate possible measures to enhance performance.
Energy is increasingly vital to the success of the Air Force’s mission to “fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.” The need for a sophisticated understanding of installation energy systems will grow along with it. As the two EaaS pilots have shown, an ability to collaborate with industry partners will help the Air Force meet the growing need for reliable, resilient, and efficient energy.
PULLING PIECES TOGETHER
However, we also need not wait for industry to come help us develop this strong foundation. Tackling resilience means developing the capabilities to understand our energy system performance in advance of any severe event or adverse impact that may degrade us. We need to continue working in order to ensure that these pieces can come together into an effective energy baseline at every installation across the Air Force enterprise. Because our requirements of the future demand that we pursue a forward-looking approach today.
Mark Correll, P.E., SES, M.SAME, is Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety & Infrastructure; email@example.com.
Shawn Bennett is Advisor, Air Force Office of Energy Assurance; firstname.lastname@example.org.
[This article first published in the March-April 2020 of The Military Engineer.]