Should you ever find yourself talking with someone who asserts alternative energy research is problematic or worse, or that we have all the petrochemicals we’ll ever need, you can calmly cite massive expenditures by the U.S. military that validate the effort.

According to a recently published report by Navigant Research, the U.S. military will be ramping up its annual budget to $926 million by 2020 for alternative fuels development and alternative drive vehicles (ADVs). This compares to $435 million spent in 2013.

Every conceivable technology is being looked at in order to cut down on fossil fuel use. Included in these are increasing numbers of E-85 and B-20 capable vehicles as well as hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles.

The military is also investing heavily in microgrids, and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies within its non-tactical vehicle fleet.

What are some of the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) motivators?

It has less to do with tree hugging, and Pollyanna thinking that green energy advocates are sometimes accused of, and more with bottom-line fiscal reality.

The U.S. military is the single largest consumer of energy and fossil fuels on planet Earth.

Compounding things is that gas and diesel in tactical theaters of operation can range from $25 per gallon to $600 to “well over $1,000 per gallon” depending on how far the fuel must travel – and be defended – to the end user.

According to the 2007 CIA World Factbook, only three countries consume more oil per capita than the U.S. DoD, and only 35 countries consume more oil in total than does the DoD.

DOD Spending_alt_vehicles

Already 55 percent of military vehicles run on “alternative fuels” but the General Services Administration (GSA) says 70 percent of non-tactical vehicles yet burn gasoline.

“Navigant Research forecasts that annual fuel consumption in the non-tactical fleet will decrease by a 2.5-percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) almost from more than 81 million gasoline gallon Alternative Drive Vehicles for Military Applications,” says an executive summary for the report.

Navigant reports the military is particularly focusing on microgrids along with V2G-enabled plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs).

Development of microgrids enables bases in both tactical and non-tactical operations to more efficiently utilize energy generation sources and to operate independently of grid conditions, say the researchers.

An additional layer of energy support and storage are V2G-enabled PEVs used solely in non-tactical applications. By providing power from the vehicles’ battery packs to buildings. These can assist “islanding microgrids” and balance distributed energy generation resources.

“V2G-enabled PEVs can also be used to reduce military facilities energy costs through demand charge reductions and generate revenue through ancillary service (AS) market participation,” observes the researchers.

What does this mean for regular citizens and consumers? It will likely mean the usual trickle down of technologies will eventually come our way, or at least we’ll in time get technologies not considered classified or otherwise off limits.

“The military serves as a prime test bed for V2G technologies as there are few entities with the purchase power capabilities and fleet dynamics that can realize the many potential benefits,” says Navigant. “By the end of 2013, the military plans to spend $20 million to test a fleet of 500 V2G enabled trucks and buses.”

The Obama administration has already instructed all light duty non-tactical vehicle acquisitions to be ADVs beginning in 2016.

“As a result, military spending on ADVs for the non-tactical fleet will increase from over $435 million in 2013 to $926 million by 2020, a CAGR of 11.4 percent,” says Navigant. ”A majority of the growth will be made through spending on HEV, PHEV, and BEV technologies.”

Momentum Underway

Not said is how much of the oil-consuming budget goes toward direct or indirect protection of the oil supply line itself.

Nor was it said the military is trying to work itself out of that aspect of its job. But, it is believed, positive changes are afoot by the heavily fuel-consuming military to increase the viability of alternative energy.

U.S.S. Makin Island

U.S.S. Makin Island

The report is aimed at Automotive OEMs, defense contractors, V2G tech developers, fueling and charging companies, and of course, the military and government agencies.

Several of these stakeholders will be in position to turn around and build out solutions for the rest of society.