In contrast to industry and the wider public sector, European Armed Forces are not yet subject to binding obligations under EU law for the simple reason that, at the explicit request of Member States, they are exempt from the main EU directives applicable in this domain such as Energy Efficiency Directive, the Renewable Energy Directive, the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive and the Energy in Transport Directive.

Notwithstanding, there are multiple reasons why energy matters for the military.

Starting with the most important: operational advantage. Operational energy required for training, moving and sustaining military forces and weapons platforms for military operations is a fundamental enabler of military action – as essential to mission accomplishment as food, water and ammunition. The more military equipment and logistics are energivorous, the more complex and costlier it becomes to move them to where they are needed most, especially in the last tactical mile of resupply or in hostile environments subject to ambush.

Therefore, energy efficiency is critically important to improving military capabilities, unit autonomy and operational resilience on the battlefield. This does not apply just to the design of platforms and when they are used on deployed operations. In keeping with the adage ‘we train as we fight’, it is imperative that military forces operate in an energy-efficient manner at home to transfer that skill to operations conducted in overseas theatres; there is also scope for increased use of synthetic training environments to save energy.

Cost-savings are a second important argument in favour of increased energy efficiency, especially in times when Ministries of Defence are cash-strapped anyway and the EU is dependent on imports of fossil fuels. Military vehicles, ships and aircraft consuming less fuel or the ability to use renewable energy sources to operate military infrastructures, platforms and systems can save huge amounts of money. Diversifying energy supplies while increasing alternative energy sources in the overall energy mix will reduce defence budgets exposure to the risks of future price instability. Finances saved on energy expenditure can be channelled to other military tasks. Therefore, to improve security of supply and reduce operational expenditures, Armed Forces have a strong interest in reducing their fossil fuel dependent footprint.

EDEN infographic 

Thirdly, making defence more environmentally resilient also pays off for Member States on a political level: they are allowed to account energy savings achieved within their defence and security sector against their global CO2 emission reduction obligations, even if the military sector is not subject to such obligations. A strong incentive for voluntary action.

Looking further ahead, the EU Global Strategy sets out that climate change and energy insecurity endanger our people and territory, while wider environmental stresses could exacerbate potential conflict, in light of their impact on desertification, land degradation, and water and food scarcity. This is also likely to impact on where Armed Forces are deployed and the way in which they operate in the future. Operating in increasingly hostile environments could increase energy demand and trigger the need for new advanced materials to cope with tougher conditions, shaping our capability requirements budgets.


High potential
Against this backdrop, the enormous potential of energy efficiency, energy management and renewable energies in the military has been increasingly recognized and followed by action over the past few years, nationally (by the Armed Forces themselves) but also on a wider European level.

In 2011, the European Defence Agency (EDA) confirmed fuel and energy as one of the top ten capability development priorities and started implementing the first projects under the ‘Military Green’ umbrella (see details below).

In its 2013 Communication ‘Towards a more competitive and efficient defence and security sector’, the European Commission noticed that the defence sector could become a “frontrunner” in the deployment of emerging technologies under the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) plan to promote innovative and low-carbon energy technologies. The Commission also decided at that time to set up a consultation mechanism with Member States on renewables and energy efficiency in the defence sector – an initiative which led in 2015 to the setting up of the ‘Consultation Forum on Sustainable Energy in the Defence and Security Sector’ (CF SEDSS) – the European Commission’s flagship initiative on energy and defence, organized and managed by the EDA.

Mindsets in the military have thus started to change with energy efficiency and sustainable management increasingly being seen as strategic goals. “Some of the world’s most efficient militaries are progressively replacing expensive fossil fuels with power generated by solar panels, wind turbines and rechargeable batteries. This is not only about more reliable on-site energy generation. It’s also about making it safer and cheaper for troops to complete their missions”, EU Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action, Miguel Arias Cañete, stated at the opening plenary session of the Consultation Forum last January in Brussels.

“Sustainable energy use starts at home. This is true for individuals as well as for the armed forces”, adds Jorge Domecq, the EDA’s Chief Executive. “The energy bill for Europe’s armed forces amounts to billions of euros. The EU legislation in place for energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy performance in buildings can certainly improve the armed forces’ energy output. Ultimately this will not only benefit their environmental footprint but will also result in considerable savings”.

Examples of how Armed Forces can become more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly include deploying troops to low-footprint, low-energy camps and developing energy efficient, self-sufficient operating bases - domains in which the EDA has already initiated concrete projects.

EDA: from ‘Military Green’ to the Consultation Forum

In 2011 the EDA spearheaded the first European targeted approach to managing energy in the military with its innovative initiative, ‘Military Green’. Combining the EU military concept for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency, national armed forces priorities and EU directives, Military Green defined the concept, the principles and responsibilities to meet the military’s energy and environmental challenges. It attempted to bring all stakeholders together to establish a common understanding of the defence sector’s role in contributing to EU energy and environmental goals.

In 2014, this led to the establishment of a dedicated EDA Energy & Environment Working Group. The approach is the following: understand the strategic drivers for the military, define the scope of the challenge through data collection and analysis, educate and inform, focus on efficiency gains, then on the scope for alternative energy sources.

Lack of military energy data capture

To date there has been no global capture of energy usage in the military at a European level; statistics are based on interpretation and estimations. Member States individually have data available and work has recently begun in the EDA on a data collection, analysis & sharing (DCAS) activity. This aims to collect information from Member States, at a macro and non-sensitive level, on the significant energy users of energy and fuel sources in the military. The data will be used to define the scale and complexity of the challenge facing the sector and assist Member States in setting priority areas for attention in terms of R&D, procurement, design and operational control over the coming years.

The EDA’s Energy and Environment programme will continue to serve as a platform for Member States willing to deal in a collaborative way with energy and environment-related challenges in the defence sector. Working group meetings are scheduled for this autumn to discuss the next phase of the Smart Camp Technical Demonstrator project, for instance. It is also planned to consider the scope for and benefits of the circular economy as well as sustainable procurement to Europe’s military organizations.

Energy Management Systems (EnMS)

Proactive energy management is not yet universal across the European defence sector and improvements will not only enhance military capability and reduce financial and operational risks, but also strengthen the competitiveness of the technological and industrial base. Although Energy Management Systems (EnMS) have grown in importance and some Member States have adopted international standards, wide scale penetration of energy management systems implementation into the European defence community remains low. At the request of several Member States, the Energy & Environment (EnE) working group and EDA’s Education, Training and Exercises unit (ETE) developed a comprehensive EnMS Training course which will be offered towards the end of 2016, early 2017, to educate and assist them in applying a systems approach to energy management at an operational level based on the ISO 50001 standard. The course will include classroom based learning, supplemented by ongoing mentoring to support Member States in applying EnMS principles in their own armed forces.

Smart Energy Camp Technical Demonstrator

EDA’s Smart Camp Technical Demonstrator project analyses the benefits of integrating new technologies into traditional power grids for deployed camps. As part of the project, energy management equipment was installed in October 2015 at the European Union’s Training Mission (EUTM) in Mali; it is the first time a technical demonstrator is used in a truly operational, multinational deployed camp. The main objectives of project (the first test phase of which was concluded in March 2016) are:

  • to test and verify the efficiency of various types of flexible, combat suitable photovoltaic panels in specific climatic conditions and test the integration of renewables with battery storage in a deployment scenario;
  • to test ‘demand management’ technology and its impact on inhabitants;
  • to collect reliable data for analysis and sharing with MS and to develop benchmarks for planning support tools for CSDP operations.
BAE Systems (UK) are the contractor for this project (see interview below). Positive results have been collected, showing savings of between 33% up to 60% of energy in the test building, with the potential of possible savings of up to 75% with additional technical interventions.

Member States are now considering a second research phase including an upscaling of the equipment installed to provide more renewable power to the camp, water management technologies, waste management technologies including waste to energy conversion, and further efficiency measures. Alternatively, some Member States have expressed an interest to trial the equipment in their national deployed camps.

Italian MoD is the latest newcomer in EDA’s Smart Blue Water Camps project which it joined last August. “We did so because we strongly believe in European defence cooperation, especially in energy and environment-related domains where we all have similar problems. So, why not explore common solutions together?”, Lt Colonel Vincenzo Mauro, Italian project point of contact, told us. “We also expect tangible results for our military operations and exercises, such as a reduction in water and energy consumption which will also result in operational advantages because it will reduce the logistic burden of operations”. Smart water management in field camps is not a topic previously explored in such detail by the Italian MoD on a national basis. “Given that the project deals with less sensitive security questions, it allows for a very open cooperation which should allow us to achieve maximum results”, Lt Colonel Mauro said.

Smart Blue Water Camps

Existing civil and military water management infrastructure is facing pressure due to climatic changes and limited new investment. Military installations are so far among the least acknowledged elements in water cycle management.

Acknowledging water as a critical resource throughout Europe, including for their Armed Forces, six EDA Member States – Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy - have recently committed to participating in a novel water management project: the ‘Smart Blue Water Camps project’ (SBWC). It examines water management on defence lands from a hydro-informatics, conservation, sustainability and technological innovation point of view.

For the first phase which kicked off in September 2016, the EDA provides funding to conduct workshops and analysis of water management technology for fixed military installations on a chosen military site in each Member State. The second phase will involve implementation of the most suitable identified interventions.

Consultation Forum

Since 2015, the EDA’s Energy & Environment Working Group has been the umbrella for the Consultation Forum for Sustainable Energy in the Defence and Security Sector. The Consultation Forum is a European Commission (DG Energy) initiative managed by the EDA. It brings together experts from the defence and energy sectors to share information and best practice on improving energy management, efficiency and the use of renewable energy in the military.

The Consultative Forum’s objectives are:

  • to assess ways and means of how to best implement existing EU energy legislation in the military and defence domain
  • to stimulate collaborative sustainable energy projects in the defence sector
  • to identify applicable funding streams for such projects and give a tailored information regarding access to EU funding.
The work is carried out in three parallel working groups each with a particular focus: i)“Energy Management” deals with the Energy Efficiency Directive, data collection and analysis, and with EnMS; ii) “Energy Efficiency” focuses on key articles of the Energy Efficiency and Energy Performance in Buildings directives, the technology side of energy in buildings and fixed infrastructure, renovation of existing buildings as well as on heating and air conditioning inspection schemes and technical building systems requirements, and their applicability to the defence sector; iii) “Renewable Energy” deals with the application of Renewable Energy Systems (RES) in the military, national RES action plans, decentralisation and the use of RES at military sites, and technologies in the area of solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and small Hydro as well as with fuel cells, storage and smart grids.

Protection of Critical Infrastructure

Recently the Consultation Forum topics have been extended to exchanges of experience on the Protection of Critical Infrastructure (PCEI). This implies sharing expertise on the analysis of criticalities and the interdependencies for the protection of the energy infrastructure against man-made and natural hazards.

In May 2016, the EDA held an initial meeting to exchange views with national representatives and the Commission’s DG Energy on the need to explore PCEI from a military point of view and to assess how the EU energy legislation on European critical (energy) infrastructures can be applied by the defence sector.

The Consultation Forum takes place in a series of five plenary meetings over two years; two of which have been successfully completed. The first meeting was held in Brussels in January 2016 and the second meeting in Dublin in June 2016. The third plenary meeting takes place in Italy from 22nd - 24th November 2016; two further meetings will be held in 2017.

The Consultation Forum is being carried forward with the participation of 27 EU Member States including Denmark (which is not a member of the EDA) as well as Norway and Switzerland which shows the critical importance of energy efficiency to European Ministries of Defence. The final deliverable will be a guidance document which all Member States can use to find practicable solutions to military energy management challenges.

The way ahead

Richard Brewin, EDA’s Energy and Environment Systems Project Officer concludes that: “Understanding and managing energy alongside other existing and emerging risks including climate change, resource depletion, and security of supply considerations will help shape our future capability requirements and maintain military capability to the required levels of effectiveness”.

The EDA’s Energy and Environment programme will continue to serve as a platform for Member States willing to deal in a collaborative way with energy and environment-related challenges in the defence sector. Working group meetings are scheduled for this autumn to discuss the next phase of the Smart Camp Technical Demonstrator project, for instance. It is also planned to consider the scope for and benefits of the circular economy as well as sustainable procurement to Europe’s military organizations.

BAE Systems are very active in developing energy-related products. Would you say that it is nowadays a commercial ‘must’ for a defence producer to ‘think green’?

Emissions targets mean that governments and their militaries are being driven to reduce their carbon footprint. Initially this focused on their fixed infrastructure and what they can do within their homebases. Operational energy largely avoided the need to be too concerned with how much pollution they are producing, but things are changing. Training facilities often located within home nations mean that they have to abide by local laws and regulations so they need products and equipment that will meet those guidelines. Given the tight budgets for equipment and the need for standardization, those ‘eco-friendly’ operational platforms start to form the backbone of the deployed operational force. Whilst industry is developing greener products there is more that could be done through better requirements setting, e.g. better range doesn’t have to mean a larger fuel tank. I don’t think it is yet a ‘must’ but it will be soon.

What are the biggest obstacles for expanding smart energy management in the military sector?

Finance. Most of the smart energy technologies you see being discussed in the military sector are all commercially available and in some cases deployed on a large scale. The military often sees itself as a ‘special case’ and therefore believes it has to provide demonstrable evidence of the savings that can be achieved using different technologies. These technologies are supported by business cases developed over the years and proven through commercial installations. There is no need to repeat them because the installation is surrounded by razor wire and guarded 24/7. They need funding to get them installed and start saving money so it can be re-directed. Unfortunately reducing emissions doesn’t immediately link to supporting the operational need and there are long procurement cycles and a nervousness on relying on ‘new’ technology. Work needs to be done in ruggedizing some technologies for military use but this should be a simple process and could easily result in smart energy systems being deployed sooner rather than later.

What kind of new initiatives or measures would the industry like to see in order to accelerate the energy transition in the European defence?

Industry is involved in working groups and forums across Europe and beyond often at its own expense because it believes in the products it has developed and the potential for the military sector to embrace it. For me on the surface there appears to be duplicated research either at multi-national organization level or across nations. What would be really good is mapping out all of this great research, modelling and trials and then overlaying it onto a plan of national procurement cycles. If industry can see the end game they will happily play along but without the vision of what it is round the corner it makes investment decisions hard to justify. We need smarter requirement setting by the military, greater visibility of information to the user and a willingness by the military to accept that if you want this new technology then you will have to step away from the ‘one size fits all’ mantra of the diesel genset generation.

How do you see the Smart Energy Camp deployed in Mali develop in the near future?

I would like to see it develop into a Net Zero Camp demonstration site. Moving away from individual technology ‘trials’, as we know they all work, and pulling together a suite of technologies that when installed together will drive the camp
to the holy grail of zero emissions.

Jon Woodman

Business Development Manager at BAE Systems Energy Solutions & Services, is the project lead for the EDA Smart Camp Technical Demonstrator Project. Over the last 9 years he has worked on similar programmes for the UK MoD leading trials in Wales, Cyprus and Kenya as well as carrying out detailed studies into the suitability of technologies for deployed camp operations. BAE Systems was selected as the Industry lead for the EDA Smart Camp Technical Demonstrator Project in Mali following the tender in late 2014.

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