Sharon McManus

European Defence Agency


Energy as a military capability and the need for innovation to develop this capability.


Operational energy is defined by the US Armed Forces as “energy required for training, moving and sustaining military forces and weapons platforms for military operations”. Energy has for centuries been a fundamental enabler of military operations. However, there is complexity to moving energy supplies to where they are needed most, especially in the last tactical mile of resupply due to poor lines of communication, risk from explosive devices and other ambush attacks.

These factors can impose huge costs, monetary and human, on a resupply operation. Therefore, ‘energy efficiency’ is critically important to armed forces if they wish to improve military capabilities, unit autonomy and operational resilience on the battlefield. But energy efficiency does not apply just to deployed operations. In keeping with the adage ‘we train as we fight’, it is imperative that military forces operate in an energy-efficient manner at home also in order to be able to transfer that skill to operations conducted in overseas theatres.

Developing capabilities takes time – a capability cannot be taken off a shelf – it requires years of research, development, doctrine, training and finally application. Developing an energy efficient force requires commitment. Therefore innovation, research & development is critical for military forces in order to ensure that they have the capability to carry out their functions in peace time and in war.

War is never as easy topic to discuss but it should be noted that as a result of military campaigns and conflicts many of the most innovative solutions were conceived and have now made the jump from a military technology to a civilian technology. These technologies are known as “dual-use” technologies and examples include GPS, drones, the internet, radar, microwave ovens, carbon fibre and nylon to name but a few.

Presently the EU is exploring the provision of a substantive defence research programme in the next multiannual financial framework. This means using the EU budget for defence research. The intention is to ensure that we retain Europe’s ability to be a credible security provider that relies on state-of-the-art cutting-edge technologies. In terms of how this is relevant to energy, Europe is surrounded by an arc of instability from Russia to the Middle East to Northern Africa, both politically and from the point of view of energy, particularly in terms of security of energy supply, protection of critical energy infrastructure and for the cost competitiveness of EU industry. Energy security is a strategic issue for the EU today – including for defence.  The EU imports more than half of all the energy it consumes and is particularly high for crude oil. Managing energy is a key aspect of our European Strategic Autonomy; we need to promote efficiency and diversification of fuel sources to increase security of supply.

Like all other sectors, the defence sector has a role to play in the decarbonisation of the economy. R&D for energy in defence is imperative in order to make good on Europe’s COP21 commitment to cut harmful emissions by 40% by 2030.  In the EU, the armed forces are the largest public consumer of energy and are also the largest public owner of free land and infrastructure.

The European Defence Agency provides a platform for Member States to focus on energy challenges, both operationally and domestically in a collaborative way and provides a unique opportunity for armed forces to develop energy efficiency, resilience and autonomy in cooperation with their national programmes.

For the defence sector energy is more than a commodity. It is as essential to mission accomplishment as food, water and ammunition. Military energy efficiency is key to sustaining operations at home and overseas, and advances in this field of military energy will benefit the wider national economic and environmental strategic objectives of each Member State and of Europe.

About Sharon McManus:

Sharon McManus is the European Defence Agency (EDA) Energy & Environment Project Officer with responsibility for the Energy & Environment Working Group and the European Commission’s Consultation Forum for Sustainable Energy in the Defence & Security Sector on behalf of the 28 Member States (MS) Armed Forces.

Sharon has served as an Engineer Corps Officer of the Irish Defence Forces for 20 years and has worked in both combat and infrastructural engineering environments most notably as the Defence Forces Energy Manager with responsibility for control and monitoring of energy consumption throughout the land, sea and air domains of the Defence Forces. Between 2007 and 2012 the Irish Defence Forces reduced their total energy consumption by 17% without reducing operational output and were accredited to ISO 50001 International Energy Management Standard in 2012, the first Defence Forces in the World to achieve this standard and the first to be re-accredited in 2015.

Sharon has a BE Civil Engineering degree from NUIG and a MEngSc Sustainable Energy Master’s degree from UCC. Sharon is also a Combat Engineer and has served on three overseas deployments with the Irish Defence Forces including; Liberia, 2005; Kosovo, 2006 and Chad, 2010.

In her role as Energy Project Officer in the EDA, Sharon aims to build a common understanding of effective energy management practices throughout the EU armed forces, provide training to ensure that this knowledge is widely available to all MS, profile military energy use throughout the EU armed forces to define the scale and complexity of the energy challenge and though this, allow for data-informed decisions in the areas of research, procurement and design of technology and services for the military.


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