VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE -- An Air Force Judge Advocate General officer stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., was recently selected as a semi-finalist after submitting an idea to the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s 2021 Innovation Rodeo.
Lt. Col. Jason Hull, deputy staff judge advocate at the Combined Force Space Component Command, received notification on Dec. 21, 2020, that his idea was one of only 12 that made it to the semi-final round. More than 400 idea submissions were originally submitted from Airmen and DoD civilians throughout the Air Force to compete for $1 million in funding.
Titled “Sustainably Use Renewable Energy Certificates Across the Nation,” or SURECAN, Hull’s idea is intended to annually decrease energy costs by using revenue generated from the sale of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to fund energy savings infrastructure projects that cost the Air Force nothing to implement. Through enhancements in renewable energy, his idea is also designed to help with base energy resiliency to provide additional sources of renewable power to support and/or create microgrids at Air Force installations throughout the U.S., thus potentially limiting the impact of terrorist attacks against base power supplies.
“My personal interest in this at first was simply a way to help the Air Force save money,” said Hull, who submitted his idea in Oct., 2020.
Hull says that the idea came to him after a coalescing of both professional and personal experiences.
“The Air Force sent me to obtain a master’s degree in procurement and environmental law and, as part of the capstone of that program, I had to write a thesis,” Hull said. “During the course of my research, I learned of guidance issued by the federal government’s Council on Environmental Quality that discusses the ability of federal agencies to monetize the purchase and sale of RECs associated with renewable energy, used as a means to help offset costs of obtaining renewable energy production capabilities such as wind turbines and solar panels.”
The spark that made him realize that this was a potentially workable solution for the Air Force was a conversation he had one day with his Washington D.C. landlord.
“My landlord had recently installed solar panels on his house and the installation company informed him that there were RECs associated with the energy produced by the panels,” Hull stated. “Since Washington D.C. had set a renewable portfolio standard for utilities that either required them to produce a certain amount of renewable energy, obtain the RECs from renewable energy purchased elsewhere, or be penalized, it created a secondary market where the utilities would purchase RECs at a rate driven by the amount of the penalty.”
Hull conducted a quick internet search and found the REC price for solar is $440 in Washington D.C., while the same REC price for solar is $77 in Maryland. This meant that a federal agency could sell their RECs for solar panels on their building in Washington D.C. for $440 and then repurchase them in Maryland for $77 to enable them to still meet the goal of renewable energy use set by Congress under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The difference could then be used to offset the costs, which could be an extra $363 per REC each year.
“I continue to be amazed by the forward-thinking innovators we have in our Air and Space Forces,” said Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt, CFSCC commander. “Lt. Col. Hull creatively brought together his personal and professional education and experiences to generate an idea that could potentially save the DoD—and our taxpayers—millions of dollars in energy costs.”
Hull was notified Jan. 9 that he was not one of the eight finalists selected, but if his idea were selected he would be assigned an innovation consultant and an AFWERX Austin industry technology mentor to help him further develop his idea and refine his pitch. The 2021 AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo event, where the finalists present their pitches to Air Force and industry executives, is scheduled for Feb. 5.
“Although it’s a little disappointing not to have made it to the final round, I’m truly grateful for this opportunity to compete,” remarked Hull. “The Air Force is really affording Airmen and civilians at all ranks and organizational levels a chance to offer and develop their ideas, all of which will ultimately benefit the DoD and the Unites States.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the AFIMSC 2021 Innovation Rodeo can visit the AFWERX Spark Tank website here: https://www.afwerx.af.mil/spark-tank.html
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