Energy reduction requires team effort

  • Published
  • By Robins Energy Office
Three years ago Robins started an energy awareness and conservation program and achieved immediate results - a 4-percent reduction in electrical power usage in one year.

Since that time however, electrical energy consumption has steadily increased. That means a lot must change -- and fast -- for the base to meet the federal mandate of reducing overall energy intensity by 30 percent by Sept. 30, 2015.

"We've got a lot of work to do and it's going to take every person working at Robins to help us reach this goal," said Col. Carl Buhler, installation commander. "Everyone who works here controls power usage in some way and we need their help."

Base employees using end-of-day energy checklists - which helped remind them to power off computer monitors, printers and other items before leaving work - made the difference when the program started.

That was followed by many additional efforts, including energy audits, the Bldg. 905 initiative, creation of maintenance wing-led aviation energy team, weekly energy meetings led by Buhler, a partnered air base/maintenance wing program management energy review, frequent energy articles, metering 95 percent of main base electrical consumption, establishment of an energy management steering group with three supporting working groups (aviation operations, vehicle fuels and facility energy), an Airman's Attic lighting upgrade and installation of a 20-foot diameter fan in the Fitness Center.

But despite all of those efforts, consumption has actually been increasing and most of the original reduction has been erased.
Challenges in meeting the goals include construction of new facilities, as well as hundreds of new employees hired. In this fiscal year alone, more than 1,000 new employees will be hired.

Like all Air Force installations, Robins has been mandated by the federal government to reduce its energy intensity, which is defined as energy consumed per square footage of base buildings, by 30 percent by Sept. 30, 2015. The mandate comes from the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Energy intensity is calculated by dividing the amount of total facility energy - which includes electricity, natural gas, propane and heating fuel - by the total square footage of building on base.

In 2003, the base used 1,868,147 million British Thermal Units, a measurement which calculates all energy usage, including electricity, natural gas and propane. The same year the base was calculated to have 13,976,000 square feet of building space, for an energy intensity of .1337. At the end of fiscal year 2010, the base had 12,751,464 square feet of building space, using 1,989,111 MBTUs, for an energy intensity of .1560, which is the 16.7-percent increase.

In order to meet the mandate, during the next 58 months the base will need to reduce its energy intensity 32 percent from the fiscal year 2003 baseline, explained Dave Bury, project officer tracking the efforts.

The 32-percent figure is due to the fact that energy intensity has increased 1.8 percent since 2003, which means the increase is now added to the original 30-percent goal. Additionally, energy consumption gains resulting from current and future growth must be completely offset.

"We need about a half point (.55 percent), energy reduction each month, while we grew an average of .33 percent per month the previous year," Bury said. "It's a tall order, no doubt."

To help, the 78th Civil Engineer Group is doing a full-court press to program and implement energy-efficient changes to facilities and process equipment, such as the machines needed to build, repair, update and test aircraft and aircraft components. These up-grades are identified by detailed energy audits which produce critical data to allow Robins to compete for some of the Air Force's energy budget set at $250 million a year for the next five years.

In fiscal 2010, Robins was approved for $7.7 million in energy efficiency projects which are expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Also, a newly-established "Energy Miser Team" is actively helping base employees identify and employ low- and no-cost energy-reduction measures in their workplaces, while a Commander Kill-A-Watt icon, complete with instructions, is being 'pushed' to the desktops of Robins employees. Clicking on the icon takes you to a map where you can select a facility and choose a daily/monthly view. With this capability workers can see "real-time" electrical energy use data for their facilities and make more informed decisions about energy use and conservation efforts in their organizations.

Meanwhile, the Energy Office is busy using the "Bldg. 905 Energy Initiative" - the brainchild of Col. Carl Buhler, installation commander - as a template to assess energy-saving opportunities in the top 20 facilities on Robins which use the most energy. So far, it's discovered similar opportunities in at least three of those facilities.

The Energy Office has completed seven of the 12 energy-saving opportunities identified in Bldg. 905. The opportunities, such as installing power strips, bathroom light sensors, timers on hot water pumps, and night setback on air handlers, cost $9,570, but should reduce energy consumption in the facility by an estimated 220,700 kWh and save Robins $13,683 annually. The efforts have achieved 40 percent reduction of electrical consumption within the building with no loss of comfort to the occupants. When the additional five opportunities are completed, it should lead to greater reduction.

To map the plan for reaching the reduction goal, Buhler developed an Energy Intensity Reduction Way Ahead. It is a detailed triangle graphic of how the goal can be met starting from this year, with conservation projects added each year to achieve the goal.

For example, it lists a 6 to 8 percent reduction from individual awareness and conservation efforts, such as turning off computer monitors at night. Efforts of the Energy Miser Team are expected to also help achieve the 6 to 8 percent decrease. Fiscal 2010 and 2011 energy projects should yield a 5 to 8 percent reduction. All of those are projected to be completed by the end of 2011.

Projects planned for 2012 are expected to realize an additional 2 to 4 percent decrease, and the same for 2013. Alternative energy sources are projected for a 2 to 6 percent decrease in 2014, while additional projects in 2015 would achieve another 2 to 4 percent.

"As you can tell, to meet the 32 percent energy intensity reduction while also adding another 5 percent to compensate for growth, a total of 37 percent reduction is required over 58 months. All of the earlier mentioned efforts will yield approximately a 25 percent energy intensity reduction leaving us with a worse-case 12 percent gap, so we need your help in finding the 12 percent." said Buhler.

Team Robins also stepped up also by participating in National Energy Month. We received 64 initiatives and 120 slogans during that timeframe via the Kill-A-Watt drop box and will highlight these in the next Rev-Up edition. We're examining each of them, but still need more time to ascertain the ones that need the quickest action.

"So, the installation's Energy Office can only do so much," added Otis Hicks, base civil engineer. "The installation's success in meeting the federal mandate depends, in large part, on the commitment of all Team Robins members in controlling energy use."

"Bottom line, despite our best efforts, we are getting worse," Bury concluded. "We need your help, and we need it now."