Reduction vs. optimization: Changing the narrative around energy conservation

  • Published
  • By Jessie Northridge, Energy Manager
  • Engineering Division, 88th Civil Engineer Group

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – My commitment to energy conservation began when I was a kid watching cheesy television commercials, where cartoons or puppets reminded us to turn off the lights and recycle to help save the world.

While having your kids aware of the impacts of leaving lights on and throwing trash out the car window helps keep us as adults honest, it can be pretty annoying and inconvenient.

However, there is definitely a new level of shame when you leave a light on and your 5-year-old child calls you out for killing the spotted salamander because you contributed to creating one more ton of greenhouse gases.

While leaving lights on a few extra minutes isn’t going to mean the difference between all the salamanders dying off in a mass-extinction event, it is important to think about the larger impacts of energy use.

Through our support of the greater Defense Department, we are put in a pretty unique situation: The mission must be completed at whatever cost. To many people, conserving energy means stepping back mission requirements because the energy requirements of the mission are fixed, right?

I’m here to tell you that, most often, they are not and there are ways to both reduce energy consumption and crush the mission. Sometimes, it can be as simple as changing an automated system setting. Boom! All the winning!

Why should you care how much energy you use? Most of you don’t pay a bill for the energy you use at work anyway. However, it isn’t always about the bill.

Remember the mission we’re all working toward completing? Well, if we need less energy to be amazing warfighters, researchers and maintainers, then we need less infrastructure – and that costs less to build and maintain.

With existing infrastructure, conserving means we have room for more missions. If you can get by with 1 megabyte internet, but the lines going to your house can handle 100 MB internet, then there is space for 99 other 1 MB missions.

Next time you see one of those cheesy commercials, where some cute furry creature is telling your kids to turn off the lights to save the planet, remember it isn’t about stepping on a Lego in the dark or doing less, it is about making room for more awesomeness by being great at using what you really need.

During Energy Action Month each October, the Air Force highlights energy’s critical role in operations and mission continuity by encouraging smart use and management for installations, ground vehicles and aircraft.

With a theme of “Powering Possibility,” this year’s campaign reflects the Air Force’s forward-looking approach to energy innovation and powering the future force.