This post was written by Brendan Mullen, a first year student at Fuqua. Brendan recaps “Disruption in the Military,” a recent panel at the 2012 Duke Sustainable Business and Social Impact conference.
A Net Impact conference at a business school can be pretty broad. By its definition, Net Impact can—and should—cover a lot of ground. And when a Net Impact conference is about “disrupting the status quo,” then that conference should be able to design a panel around just about anything.
That said, the military is, to most, not inherently about the environment or business and it is certainly not designed for “disruption.”
However, at Duke’s 2012 Sustainable Business and Social Impact conference, Scott Sklar of clean energy firm, The Stella Group, and Ralph Thompson, CEO of Holocene, a renewable energy company that specializes in solar water heating, proved otherwise.
The panelists illustrated their points with a few quick facts:
- The majority of deaths in US military operations occur during resupply convoys.
- The US Military is the largest land and property owner in the world.
- There is only one military base in the US, China Lake in California, which has its own power supply. If the electricity grid goes down, the military will be defenseless.
- The annual energy used for hot water heating in the US—energy that could easily be powered by solar—equals the total annual energy use in all of Africa.
- Eight of the top nine oil exporters (Norway is the exception) are dictatorships or autocratic kingdoms.
Thus, it became clear that sustainability and energy use is a strategic issue that affects military efficacy, operations and budget.
Scott and Ralph both are in discussions with the military to put solar panels on roof-tops, to design lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles, employ energy efficiency retrofits and to – little by little – design a military that embraces the disruptive technologies of the 21st century.