Email this Article Email   

CHIPS Articles: Interview with Vice Adm. Michael C. Vitale

Interview with Vice Adm. Michael C. Vitale
Commander, Navy Installations Command
By CHIPS Magazine - July-September 2011
Vice Adm. Vitale, as Commander of Navy Installations Command (CNIC), is the commander for 11 regions and 72 naval bases worldwide. CNIC's mission is to deliver effective and efficient readiness from the shore. CNIC's job as an "enabler" is to thread a needle across Navy enterprises, with the needle and thread equating to all the services installations provide on a daily basis in support of the enterprises. These services include ports, airfields, security, morale, welfare and recreation facilities, child care and housing, to name just a few.

In response to the Secretary of the Navy's energy goals to produce at least half the shore-based energy requirements from renewable sources, such as solar, wind and ocean generated by the base; and by 2020, ensuring at least 40 percent of the Navy's total energy consumption comes from alternative sources, CNIC, partnering with Naval Facilities Engineering Command, is working to reduce energy consumption while moving to renewable energy sources for naval installations worldwide.

At the 2011 Sea Air Space Exposition Vitale explained that CNIC and NAVFAC will develop an adaptable assessment tool to standardize energy investment decisions and develop a project list on an annual basis. He said the Navy is building a Smart Grid across the naval bases that will help validate how CNIC's energy project list is progressing.

CHIPS asked Vice Adm. Vitale to discuss CNIC's shore energy initiatives in June.

CHIPS: What has CNIC learned since the launch of the Navy's Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) program in 2009 as a means of monitoring electrical use and tracking reduction progress?

Vitale: We are still installing meters across Navy installations and that is a rollout plan that will take several years. Once we have the meters in place connected with the backbone to collect all the data, then we can begin analyzing the data, and can answer that question. I can tell you, without waiting two or three years to get the AMI data, we believe we will find that we are expending a lot of energy in places we didn't expect.

Today, all of our energy usage is modeled. Once we get our Smart Grid online with our meters, we may find out that a particular building, which has been historically modeled, is really leaking like a sieve. Its energy consumption is not anywhere near what we thought it was. Now we know that this is where we should be making an investment to improve the insulation in the building, the insulation in the windows, insulation in the roof, improve chillers, coolers and energy-saving devices, like [automation for] turning off the lights. Then we are going to be able to start targeting exactly what places are expending a lot more energy than we actually thought.

We believe we are going to find lots of opportunities to save more money.

CHIPS: AMI is one of the critical components of the Smart Grid. Can you explain the Smart Grid implementation plan?

Vitale: We are installing meters by region, and we are awarding contracts as we speak. Since 2009, there are six regions that have had AMI contracts. We are not metering everything. It is unaffordable, and it is not necessary. A smart meter is an expensive meter, it is basically a miniature computer that connects to the power grid, and we can use [the smart meter] to help understand what's going on.

We can use it for monitoring, and we can use it for control, we can turn things off, we can turn things on, much like people do in their homes today. Most power companies have installed devices to allow them to turn off your water heater, for example, so they can save money. You don't even realize they are turning off your water heater, and you get a savings or a discount from your bill.

Smart Grid means different things to different parties in the energy and utility businesses. For the Navy's Smart Grid, I envision more of an energy management role and less of a utility management role. For instance, initially, at the installation level, we will be able to monitor the status and energy performance of systems in a facility and eventually control lighting and temperature settings. The facility level performance can be rolled up to an installation's overall performance and all the way up to a Navywide picture. As the energy management picture is perfected and refined with Smart Grid, we will be able to provide every echelon of our energy management and leadership team with actionable information to make better energy management decisions.

CHIPS: Increasing the energy efficiency of new and existing infrastructure is the most cost-effective way to reduce energy consumption, protect critical assets and enable renewable technology development. Can you talk about some of the initiatives in these areas that CNIC is pursuing?

Vitale: Probably the most significant program we have today to improve and conserve energy is our REM program — regional energy monitors. The monitors were established through our NAVFAC partnership. They conduct systematic surveys of facilities on installations and make many recommendations using energy efficiency technologies.

CHIPS: Is there an incentive for your tenant commands to report broken windows or "leaky" buildings?

Vitale: There is a system that allows for the tenant to do that [report needs], but there is not a reason for them to call us, other than to say, 'I know that we're wasting energy.' In terms of overall consumption, the way we do business today is … I'm responsible for paying the electric bill, which is roughly $900 million a year for the Navy ($873 million in FY 2010), and our overall utility bill is about $1.2 billion. That's because we don't have the meters and a way to bill our tenants.

If I wanted to bill SPAWAR (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command), or other tenants in a building for their consumer usage, I have to meter all of their spaces too. We are putting a meter on a building; we don't put a meter on a room. That would require a significantly higher level of instrumentation. We will get there eventually, and I will be able to give a tenant a bill, but I can't do that right now, even with our current AMI plan.

CHIPS: Do you see a difference in how personnel use energy on naval installations? Is there an incentive for installations and facilities to reduce energy consumption?

Vitale: Probably the biggest way I see change occurring is in the way we are improving consumption in our new construction program. We are now required to build to a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard, which is an energy-efficient standard, and it includes all aspects of energy efficiency. As I briefed at Sea Air Space, another tool that we are now using, the eROI (energy return on investment) tool, allows us to look at those energy maps at the base and combine that with energy technologies that are available in that geographic area, to then develop a list of projects that will allow us to further improve and meet SECNAV, legislative and executive orders that have been mandated. However, until we have a smart-like grid with AMI that puts an energy 'bug' on every computer screen to show them [users] what they are consuming, we'll only see marginal consumption reduction.

CHIPS: Do alternatives, like solar and wind turbines, prove to be as reliable as traditional energy sources?

Vitale: Yes. We have them today. We have photovoltaic cells, what everyone calls PV, on a lot of our bases. We have geothermal [electricity generated from geothermal energy] on our base in China Lake. We have wind at a variety of places, and we are doing a lot of studies right now for wind to see where we can add more. They (PV, wind turbines) are reliable, but what they don't do is satisfy the full demand. What they do is provide an offset. If your base is drawing X megawatts a day, for example, in Pearl Harbor it is about 60 megawatts a day, and you put in photovoltaic cells, you might be able to take five, six or 12 [megawatts], depending on how big the array is, off that load. If you can offset the demand completely, that would be what we call net zero installation, which is one of the SECNAV's goals in 2020.

CHIPS: I heard that you advocate telecommuting as another means to reduce an installation's energy consumption, number of buildings and real estate needs.

Vitale: I am not a big believer that telecommuting or telework is another methodology for saving energy. There is marginal savings in telework — there is much more significant savings in what we call mobile work. The difference is that telework tends to be an ad hoc approach to the current employment model. If you want to telework today, you spend one or two days a week at your house. The space you occupy at the office still exists, the telephone is still there, the computer is still there and all of the things that use energy are typically still there. I don't see a lot of savings with that methodology.

Mobile work is a completely different approach. A lot of businesses today do not provide administrative space for their workers; they literally live without [an] office. They have a laptop and a telephone that connects them directly with their work, which they can do from anywhere. That allows management to take that space and consolidate its facilities, which does save money, or turn some of that space into hoteling space, which is where you create generic cubicles that people can come in and use temporarily.

That is what business is doing universally today, and that's the approach that the Navy is looking at, but we'll need to make significant changes in the way IT support is provided today to make it work. I can see the savings in transportation costs, time and quality of life benefits.

CHIPS: Surely, personnel are excited by a mobile work arrangement.

Vitale: The answer is mixed. In surveys that have been done in headquarters like our own, the response is interesting. The first thing you have to do is look at your work, and decide if that work is mobile and doesn't require a space. In our case, the average is about 25 percent, and it depends on where you are. If you are at the headquarters, a large number of our people are in 'admin' space, they might be analysts, and a lot of their work is done on the computer, so they could be eligible for mobile work. If you are on an installation, and you are out and about all over the base doing your job, you probably don't need an office. It is different for each job, and you have to study it at each level.

At the headquarters level, perhaps 25 to 30 percent could be mobile. Of that 25 to 30 percent, about 50 percent say they would like it, and 50 percent say they would not [like mobile work]. When you query the people who say they would not, you get some very personal answers like, 'I want to get away from my mother-in-law or my wife,' or 'I don't want to work in my house every day.'

Until I read that, I really didn't appreciate it [many different viewpoints] at all.

There are some cultural implications here that we will have to work through before we arbitrarily change the conditions of employment and say, 'Congratulations, today is your big day, you are now a mobile worker.' [Then they say], 'Great! That's super! What does that mean?'

Then you say, 'You don't have a desk anymore, you don't have an office. Here is your laptop. Here is your telephone. You get to stay home almost every day from now on,' and the guy goes, 'I don't want to do that.'

Initially, businesses have gone through a very steep learning curve and systematically had to figure out who would be accepting of it — and who wouldn't be accepting of it.

You find that the type of work is critical to effective mobile work, whether it is analytical work or sales work, and that there will be people who don't like it. You have to be very scientific about this, which we will do when we decide to do it.

The Navy is driving to take advantage of every energy opportunity available to reduce its consumption, as well as driving itself to become truly more efficient while it remains effective.

Vice Adm. Michael C. Vitale
Vice Adm. Michael C. Vitale
Related CHIPS Articles
Related DON CIO News
Related DON CIO Policy

CHIPS is an official U.S. Navy website sponsored by the Department of the Navy (DON) Chief Information Officer, the Department of Defense Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI) and the DON's ESI Software Product Manager Team at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific.

Online ISSN 2154-1779; Print ISSN 1047-9988
Hyperlink Disclaimer