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James announces Office of Energy Assurance

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced the establishment of the Air Force Office of Energy Assurance and conducted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland March 22.

James spoke to more than 600 Air Force basic trainees at the ceremony for the Forward Operating Base of the Future.

The FOB of the Future is located at the Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills Training (BEAST) site, where trainees spend a week in an expeditionary environment during their more than eight weeks at basic military training.

Developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory, the $3.4 million project will demonstrate alternative energy capabilities to reduce a FOB’s reliance on diesel by generating on-site renewable energy and reducing overall consumption.

While the project is an energy reduction prototype that also advances a culture of energy awareness, the significant goal will be reducing the reliance on fuel convoys in contested FOB environments which have resulted in service member casualties.

One zone of the BEAST site was retrofitted with solar panels on tents, enhanced environmental controls, micro-grid technology, and smart power controllers, reducing the energy footprint of the zone by 85 percent.

“One of the biggest challenges our Airmen face on the battlefield is secure access to energy, the energy we need to accomplish our mission,” she said. “Natural disasters, terrorism, political instability … all of these can impact our access to energy and jeopardize mission effectiveness.”

However, assured access to energy isn’t just a requirement for our Airmen in forward operating environments, it’s critical to our operating needs at every installation, James said.

“Through innovative technologies and business models, we’ll create strategic energy agility on our installations, allowing us to sustain our mission even when traditional resources are disrupted,” she said.

According to the OEA memorandum of establishment, signed earlier this month by James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the office will develop, implement and oversee an integrated facility energy portfolio, including privately financed, large-scale clean energy projects that will provide uninterrupted access to the electricity necessary for mission success.

James said the OEA will take an enterprise-wide approach to identify and facilitate energy projects that provide resilient, cost-effective, cleaner power to Air Force installations.

Miranda Ballentine, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and energy, said the office is already beginning to operate and anticipates having 10 large-scale projects in service or procurement across the U.S. by the end of 2017.

“The establishment of OEA further cements the Air Force’s focus on energy resiliency,” Ballentine said. “The Air Force is taking a holistic approach to our installation energy resources and looking to resilient, cleaner and cost-effective energy projects as a way to enhance the Air Force’s mission assurance through energy assurance.”