Enabling DOD Energy Policy with Smart Grid Technology

By Melanie Johnson and Harold Sanborn

The U.S. Department of Defense, driven by energy policy and increasing energy costs, pursues innovative technology to improve energy efficiency and monitor energy consumption at both domestic installations and deployed locations. Smart grid technology underpins many of these advancements and enables the DoD to better understand consumption patterns and make informed decisions regarding energy use. However, higher operational security requirements and maintenance costs pose a unique challenge to implementing smart grid technology throughout DoD and requires additional planning and development to ensure successful adoption.

Since 2006, policy regarding energy consumption in the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Army has rapidly expanded. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007) requires that all new federal facilities reduce fossil fuel consumption by 100 percent by 2030 compared to a 2003 baseline, and produce 25 percent of the required energy from renewable sources by 2025. In 2011, the Army identified nine pilot installations with the goal to achieve net-zero energy consumption by 2020, and in addition set a goal to have 25 net-zero energy installations by 2030. Further policy objectives identified in the Army Energy Security Implementation Strategy (AESIS) require the Army to heighten energy security at its installations through increasing the surety, survivability, supply, sufficiency, and sustainability of their energy resources.

These compounding energy goals encourage the DoD and Army to pursue innovative energy technologies to meet mission requirements while improving overall efficiency. Net-zero energy installations require large renewable energy generation resources in order to offset their substantial consumption. With these renewable energy resources achieving or exceeding 100 percent of installation demand, grid integration and stability become serious challenges.

The Army and DoD face a unique challenge in achieving these energy goals. The United States DoD occupies 276,770 buildings totaling over 2.2 billion square feet. The bulk of this real estate sits largely within military installations, which resemble small cities with loads encompassing industrial, residential, and commercial sectors peaking in the tens of megawatts. Often, these loads are behind a single meter. Many installation distribution systems are aging and in need of renovation and modernization.

Energy policy reaches the in theatre operations of the DoD as well. In June 2011, the commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan called for increased efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption, citing data that showed the U.S. Army experienced one casualty for every 24 fuel convoys from 2003 to 2007. Electricity production, particularly for space conditioning, is one of the primary uses of fuel brought to Forward Operating Bases in these convoys.

Faced with this significant need for improved energy efficiency and integration of distributed generation resources, the DoD first had to overcome a lack of data regarding electricity consumption, both at domestic installations and in operational theatres. Like the commercial sector, the DoD turned to smart grid technologies and techniques to create and collect that data.

Starting in 2010, the U.S. Army began deploying the Meter Data Management System (MDMS) to domestic installations. This program installed smart meters on individual buildings on the installations and began collecting data on building energy consumption. Data from these meters is aggregated for analysis in a central repository. Though the Army had scattered meter systems on installations prior to this, MDMS represents a huge leap forward in the adoption of smart grid technology and its application to understanding military energy usage. Similarly, the Deployable Metering and Monitoring System was developed to collect and record energy consumption from tactical power systems. These two smart grid-based systems have enabled the Army and DoD to begin understanding energy consumption like never before.

Alongside these metering programs, the DoD has also focused on implementing microgrids at both large installations and in operational theatres. Prominently, the Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS) Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) designed, built, and demonstrated backup power microgrid capabilities at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Fort Carson, and Camp Smith. These demonstrations featured advanced microgrid controls with strong cyber security postures capable of networking backup diesel generators with renewable energy resources to support critical missions during extended power outages. Other DoD sites, such as Fort Detrick, operate prime power microgrids with large central utility plants that support islanded operation.

On the tactical side, multiple programs from have developed, built, and deployed microgrid systems for operational environments. Current emphasis with these systems lies with standardization for interoperability under the Tactical Microgrid Standards Consortium.

However, all DoD systems that utilize information networks and systems are constrained by a heightened need for cyber security. Smart grid systems in DoD applications are no exception to this rule. While extending information networks to our infrastructure offers numerous capabilities, the DoD must ensure that new vulnerabilities are eliminated or sufficiently mitigated. While policy continues to develop around the security requirements of smart grids and control systems, many key parts are in place. In 2015, DoD revised cyber security policy to utilize the NIST Risk Management Framework (RMF), which applies to not only enterprise systems, but also to control systems, including smart grid systems. In 2016, DoD released new Unified Facilities Criteria 4-010-06 which outlines guidance for designers of control systems on meeting DoD security requirements.

While smart grid technology offers the DoD new avenues towards meeting energy policy goals, many challenges remain. Maintenance and sustainment funding falls short of the needs of installations, and smart grid technology introduces new maintenance requirements. Ever changing security concerns require constant reinvestment in the security posture of our smart grid systems. However, DOD policy clearly points towards more resilient and reliable power systems for installations here in the US and in operational theatres, and the challenges DoD faces are the same as private sector industry and utilities.

As we innovate to overcome these challenges and work towards better integration between our distribution systems and our utility providers, we will continue to look to the smart grid community for inspiration, support, and collaboration.

For a downloadable copy of  December 2016 eNewsletter which includes this article, please visit the IEEE Smart Grid Resource Center.



melanie johnson

Melanie D. Johnson is an electrical engineer in the Energy Branch of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (ERDC-CERL). Melanie joined the Energy Branch at ERDC-CERL in 2008 and focuses on projects that provide energy security and resiliency to military sites through alternative, renewable, and emerging energy technology. Melanie’s current research focuses on applying microgrid technologies to army and military needs. This work includes incorporating diverse distributed generation portfolios into microgrids, developing business cases for advanced microgrid control in energy markets, and applying information security practices to power distribution systems. She was the assistant technical manager for the JCTD SPIDERS program and is a key technical lead for the Tactical Microgrids Standards Consortium. Melanie graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a master's in electrical engineering and from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's in electrical engineering, both specializing in power and energy systems.


harold sanborn

Harold Sanborn is an energy program manager at the US Army Corps of Engineers, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) located in Champaign, IL. He leads initiatives in joint service installation energy projects, technology demonstrations, and micro-grid design and sustainment/resiliency projects. His professional pursuits include enabling renewable generation resources to contribute to energy security on military installations and systems engineered solutions to tough installation infrastructure problems. His signature program recently completed was the Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS) Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD). The SPIDERS JCTD leveraged his ability and willingness to handle multifaceted novel contracting, joint service fiscal management, and excellence in cyber secure energy controls for mission assurance. Sanborn holds a bachelor’s of science in public administration from Central Michigan University. He is also an honor graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course and the Army Management Staff College. For much of his 33 years in civil service, Harold also served as a Commissioned Officer trained in infantry and military intelligence. He is currently a liaison to the Army Research Lab to increase the effectiveness of mutually sponsored programs, open campus initiatives, and business development .

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