If the question is, “Will the U.S. military reach its renewable energy goal?” the best answer might be: “Which goal?”

In his big climate-change speech this week, President Obama said the Department of Defense was being directed to install 3 gigawatts of renewable power on or around its bases, but that’s just one of three renewable energy goals that have been set out for the military, as a new report from the Pentagon outlines.

For instance, there’s the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which required all federal agencies to source at least 5 percent of their energy consumption from renewables in fiscal year 2012. Despite all the effort being made, according to the just-released Annual Energy Management Report [PDF], the military failed to meet that goal. The Department of Defense said it got 4 percent of its electricity consumption from renewables.

This is particularly interesting because in 2013, the goal in EPAct, as it’s known, rises to 7.5 percent, and in his new plan the president said he was aiming for 20 percent by 2020. How meaningful this 2020 goal might be is hard to say. The earlier, lower goals are encoded in law; this one isn’t. In any case, the military clearly has a lot of work to do to get there and the Army in particular needs to get its act together: in FY 2012, a mere 0.5 percent of its electricity consumption came from renewable energy sources.

Image via U.S. Department of Defense

The second goal the military is striving to reach is also part of legislation -- what’s known as the “10 U.S.C §2911(e) renewable energy goal.” That clutch of numbers and letters refers to a spot in the U.S. Code of Laws that states that “It shall be the goal of the Department of Defense...to produce or procure not less than 25 percent of the total quantity of facility energy it consumes within its facilities during fiscal year 2025 and each fiscal year thereafter from renewable energy sources.” Along the way, in 2018, the goal to hit is 15 percent.

Here, the new annual report says, “DOD continued to make progress…in achieving the FY 2018 interim and FY 2025 renewable energy goals,” with total production and procurement of renewable energy at 9.6 percent. (This number is higher than the EPAct 4 percent figure largely because the military doesn’t consume all of the energy it produces.)

This, too, leaves the military with a long way to go, but the good news is that there’s been a decline in reliance on the purchase of renewable energy credits to meet the goal. Seventy-five percent of the renewable energy procured or produced in FY 2012 actually came from the department’s 679 renewable energy projects (15 percent was purchased and 10 percent came from RECs). By the way, with solar and wind the marquee renewable energy sources in the public eye, you might be surprised at the breakdown of those projects:

Geothermal electric power is by far the most significant renewable energy source in DOD, accounting for nearly half of the Department’s renewable energy goal attainment. Municipal solid waste is used for both electricity and steam production, and accounts for 16 percent of the Department’s renewable energy production. There are 147 ground-source heat pump (GSHP) projects throughout DOD, contributing 9 percent of the total renewable energy produced on DOD installations. Biomass and biogas from captured methane make up 8 percent of the supply mix, followed by 357 solar photovoltaic (PV) systems contributing to approximately 8 percent of the supply mix.

As for the third Department of Defense target, the 3-gigawatt installed capacity goal highlighted by the president in his speech this week, the funny thing there is, that was actually announced by the president in April 2012. He didn’t explicitly call it a new goal this week, but a lot of reporting interpreted it that way. Anyway, it’s still too early to say how the services are progressing in hitting the targets (set for 2020 for the Navy and 2025 for the Air Force and Army).


Editor's note: This article is reposted in its original form from EarthTechling. Author credit goes to Pete Danko.