Marine Corps Bases In ENC Reducing Carbon Footprint

Jun 5, 2015

Credit Camp Lejeune

In a nation-wide push by the Marine Corps to reduce energy costs and consumption, Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point have begun training troops to cut down on power bills and bad habits. Sarah Finch has more.

Everybody uses electricity in their daily lives, and the U.S. Marines are no exception. Energy is vital for any military base, and energy costs have risen. With annual power bills of 20 million dollars and 39.6 million dollars, Cherry Point and Camp Lejeune want to cut back. Camp Lejeune Lieutenant William Peacock says the biggest costs come from storing military hardware in North Carolina’s temperate environment.

“We consume a lot more than NCIW, which is all the bases on the West coast. A lot of reasoning behind that is because of how hard our HVAC systems work to get the moisture out of the air. That takes a lot more energy.”

An executive order from President Obama requiring all federal agencies to reduce energy consumption made conservation at the bases even more vital. The Marine Corps created the Energy Initiative Program to get the ball rolling. Peacock says the program has allowed the Camp Lejeune to install cleaner, more efficient systems all around.

“Currently, we are transitioning off centralized steam plants that use coal to more efficient boilers that run off natural gas. We’ve also leveraged PV systems, solar hot water heaters, and other alternatives as well.”

It also led to the creation of another program, the Unit Energy Manager program. While the Energy Initiative focuses on broad changes to base infrastructure, the UEM program deals with the day-to-day energy habits of individual soldiers and units. Cherry Point’s installation manager Bob Ruffin says the program allows units to smoothly implement strategies that help them the most.

“From a facility standpoint, I can only do so much. The base is so large, and there are so many different types of facilities. The UEMs – they know how their units operate and they can identify those inefficiencies without compromising their mission.”

So far, the program has been well-received. The 42 unit energy managers in-training at Cherry Point have actively participated in reducing waste, communicating with the rest of their unit all the way. Back at Camp Lejeune, Lieutenant Peacock says the 100 newly trained UEMs have already started identifying ways in which their units could cut down on inefficiencies.

“Maybe sealing up their building a little bit better – some of them have leaky windows or their ceiling tiles are cracked. Now their HVAC is working harder, or pulling more energy to cool or to power. They might run their equipment, their compressors, or their generators too long. Now, they’re the eyes and ears; they have that authority to change wasteful behaviors.”

Bob Ruffin says he hopes the programs will have the same results as the Marine Corps’ push to increase on-base safety did a decade ago.

“You rewind 10 or 12 years ago, safety was not as big of a deal marine-wide. You look at the progress you’ve made with a program like safety. So, now safety is a pretty big deal. And I believe energy is getting there. That’s kind of the idea with the Energy Initiative Program being rolled out Corp wide.”

Ruffin says the Marine Corps has a duty to be as energy- and cost-efficient as possible.

“There is not an infinite supply of money, and every dollar that we use to heat or cool or light a building, is a dollar that can’t be used to ensure that our marines continue to be the best trained fighting force on the planet.”

Over the next several months, the UEM’s will be communicating the value of energy and providing tips on how to use less power. These efforts may seem small at first, but once integrated into daily operations, can make a real difference.  For Public Radio East, I’m Sarah Finch.