Energy and water professionals across the federal government recently attended the annual Energy Exchange conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. The three-day training event and trade show event helps agencies optimize their facility and fleet operations. Ms. Nancy Balkus, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Infrastructure, took the time to speak about this year’s event and how it relates to the ongoing installation energy and water initiatives across the Department of the Air Force:
Why is Energy Exchange important?
With dozens of training sessions, the conference provides one of the best opportunities for our energy and water community to engage in important discussions to develop and implement innovative solutions that can make the federal government a leader in adapting to and overcoming the effects of climate change to ensure mission success across the force. This year’s event will drive important conversations around planning for net-zero installations and non-tactical vehicle fleet electrification, climate resilient infrastructure, and best practices for contracting, procurement, and project development.
What were some of the DAF’s priority areas going into this conference?
This year’s Energy Exchange theme is “Advancing Federal Infrastructure through Innovation.” I think this theme really captures how we at the Department of the Air Force are working to meet some of our nation’s biggest challenges through innovative solutions that maximize operational capability, while promoting cleaner, more efficient resource use.
A major focus for us right now is the DAF’s Climate Action Plan, which outlines priorities including modernizing infrastructure and investing in climate-ready installations, making climate-informed decisions, optimizing energy use, and pursuing alternative energy sources. This plan aligns with and drives toward achieving the objectives laid out in the recent climate-related Executive Orders by the Administration. The SAF/IEE portfolio is unique in that is both bears the brunt of climate impacts and is key to mitigating them. Thus, we must all think innovatively and collaboratively to deliver infrastructure solutions that support our warfighters, adapt to climate change, and mitigate emissions where possible to support mission assurance through energy assurance.
It is my goal for our Airman and Guardians to leave this conference knowing the Department’s priorities and their role in developing efforts that are mission-centric, resilience-focused, water-inclusive, and climate-informed.
Do you think the conference was successful?
Yes, I do. After a two-year hiatus, I think the in-person nature of the event allowed our energy and water professionals to engage more meaningfully – both within formal sessions and in numerous conversations I had the pleasure of participating in surrounding the events. The events of this week allowed all of us to share in the challenges and successes of navigating our new realities and begin down a path of implementing a cleaner, healthier future Force.
I was also glad to honor the recipients of the Federal Energy and Management Water Awards as part of this year’s conference. The sheer number of DAF nominees and winners over the past two years is a testament to the ingenuity of our service professionals and their commitment to enhancing the resiliency, efficiency, and readiness of our installations to meet critical mission needs.
What topics do you hope will be covered at next year’s event?
The various lines of effort relating to Executive Order 14057, Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability, including the ambitious targets for zero emissions non-tactical vehicles, net zero emissions installation portfolios, and carbon-pollution free electricity procurement and technologies will likely continue to be a major focus of Energy Exchange in the coming years.