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NEWS | Oct. 12, 2022

88th Readiness Division energy team works to defeat high energy bills

By Cheryl Phillips 88th Readiness Division

You may think your utility bill is high. But can you imagine what the 88th Readiness Division spends on electricity and natural gas each year to keep the lights on, the air conditioning humming and the heat flowing for nearly 300 facilities through the 19-state region?

Energy prices are at all-time highs. According to industry experts, the culprits behind rising natural gas costs include geopolitics and inflation. And when natural gas prices increase, so do those for electricity. In most parts of the country, natural gas fuels the power plants that generate electricity.

According to Rick Runnion, the 88th RD’s energy bill is about $12 million per fiscal year, with $6.1 million for electricity and $3.4 million for natural gas. Runnion leads the Business Operations Integration Division within the Directorate of Public Works and oversees the command’s utility program.

The 88th RD has seen a 22 percent increase in utility costs from fiscal year 2021 to the beginning of the second quarter of FY 2022. “Most notably, we’ve seen an increase of 50 percent in natural gas procurement,” Runnion said.

BOID averages about 1,000 transactions each month. Members of his team analyze and track invoicing from procurement to payment, process payments and resolve billing discrepancies with utility providers.

Runnion said that BOID assists the energy conservation team in tracking energy consumption to develop trends and reporting.

The 88th RD is overseeing many projects that will help save utility costs and help build resiliency. The 88th RD expects a 2 percent reduction in energy quantity year to year, according to Ralph Thorn, general engineer and energy manager with the 88th RD.

In FY22, the 88th RD had several energy conservation and efficiency projects under design and under construction. The division also funded some projects for the Operations Branch of the Directorate of Public Works. That branch is responsible for the daily operations and maintenance of buildings.

Construction began in FY22 at Arlington Heights, Ill., where building 202 was recommissioned to increase HVAC system efficiency.

In design in FY22:
• Fort Snelling, Minn., building 506 boiler and controls upgrade
• Fort Snelling, building 507 HVAC systems upgrade
• Fort Snelling, photovoltaic – commonly known as PV – array, battery storage and microgrid resiliency project. This would reduce utility rates, provide renewable energy and provide resiliency when constructed.
• New Century Hangar, Kansas, HVAC and water reuse upgrades design, controls upgrades design and PV array, battery storage and microgrid resiliency project designs.

Under construction in FY22:
• Pulaski, Ill., upgrade the training building lighting to LED.
• Darien, Ill., upgrade the training building lighting to LED and replace current controls with modern digital controls.

Construction completed in FY22: Monclova, Ohio, upgraded boilers to high efficiency condensing boilers and installed capacitor bank to improve efficiency and quality of electrical supply.

Nearly a dozen FY21 Operations Branch project funded by energy money were completed in FY22. These include such facility improvements as an energy-efficient rooftop AC unit, upgraded water heater and interior and exterior light upgrades.

FY22 Operations Branch projects funded by energy money which will be constructed in FY23 include upgrades to LED lighting at four facilities.