Energy resilience focus of WPAFB exercise

  • Published
  • By Will Huntington
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – To test the effects of a widespread power-grid outage, the lights went out on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base last month for an exercise that disconnected the installation from commercial-power sources.

An Energy Resilience Readiness Exercise “flipped the switch” just after 12:01 a.m., Sept. 2, and for the next 12 hours, nearly the entire Area A section of Wright-Patt went dark.

The 88th Civil Engineer Group’s Energy Management Office planned and led this first-of-its-kind event for the installation, which was designed to test the base’s capabilities and prepare for the unexpected, according to Dustin Hoehn, an energy manager and exercise planner.

He said the Department of Defense issued the ERRE guidance and the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for environment, safety, and infrastructure has been implementing the ERREs across the service using base installation energy plans.

“Using data gathered during the IEP development from the many mission partners on WPAFB we are able to pave the road ahead with what we expect our energy needs to be in the future,” Hoehn said of Wright-Patt’s plan.

Energy assurance is an effort echoed and promoted by Air Force Material Command leadership. To increase understanding and awareness of the issue, the command developed the 2021 Installation Assurance Campaign Plan. In the plan’s preface, Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., AFMC Commander, gave his perspective.

“Energy and water are essential mission resources we depend on every day,” he wrote. “We need to ensure our energy systems are independently capable of supporting a mission-appropriate level of energy assurance. I look forward to a seamless and collaborative partnership between the mission and installation support communities—unified in purpose and laser focused on assuring energy and water systems are mission ready.”

With those “marching orders” in hand, Wright Patterson AFB’s Energy Management Office started efforts to lead up to the September exercise.

To get as broad an assessment as possible from the exercise, Hoehn said that a number of base organizations participated in the planning for it.

The ERRE’s side benefit was that officials could discover other possible vulnerabilities within the systems before a real-world outage occurred, he said.

 “There were countless hours of pre-planning that took place between CE, the 88th Air Base Wing agencies, and our mission partners,” Hoehn said. “We felt we had a 95 percent idea of what would happen.”

He said that the remaining 5 percent could include a few surprises. His vision for the exercise that disconnected the installation from commercial power was to “understand our mission resilience, map out interdependencies and identify shortfalls in our backup systems.”

In cooperation with area commercial utility providers and assistance from Area A facility managers, the 88 ABW Inspector General Office’s wing inspection team members and many other participants, the Energy Management Office tallied the outage’s effects and took particular note of any unanticipated results. When the power came back on, the collected data would give the exercise team a clearer idea of Wright-Patt’s energy resilience.

Hoehn indicated that, overall, the exercise was a success and lessons learned from it—generators that did not transfer, radio systems unable to communicate and some important equipment not supported by backup power—will be invaluable going forward.

“The findings from the infrastructure, mission owners, and ERRE observers will help feed potential solutions to address energy and water vulnerabilities,” he said. “The Energy Management Office will be prioritizing the findings from the exercise and incorporating them into the IEP and advocate for valuable resources to remedy deficiencies.

“The ultimate goal is to ensure energy availability and reliability sufficient to provide for mission assurance and readiness.”