Recent developments on the renewable energy front are underscoring the value of energy efficiency in the move to a cleaner, less expensive energy future. Improved efficiency has always been the option of first choice laid out in the 25x’25 Alliance’s vision for meeting the nation’s growing energy demands.
While the Alliance believes the nation’s farms, ranches and forestlands can meet 25 percent of our energy needs by 2025 with renewable resources, including solar power, wind energy, biomass, biofuels, hydropower and geothermal energy, more efficient use of energy will make that renewable energy goal easier to reach.
One of the critical developments on the efficiency front is being undertaken by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a non-profit, non-partisan research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works to promote energy efficiency policy at the federal and state levels throughout the United States.
ACEEE publishes a scorecard each year ranking each state based on their energy efficiency policy and program efforts. The scorecard has focused primarily on energy efficiency in residential, industrial, and commercial settings. However, states have recently indicated that the scorecard has not given adequate credit for on-farm efficiency programs.
So, this year, for the first time, ACEEE will include an agriculture section in the annual scorecard report. To obtain the needed information, a survey has been sent to state agriculture officials seeking feedback about any energy efficiency incentive or technical assistance programs state agriculture departments and other agencies operate. These programs could make grants, loans or provide technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to support the deployment of energy efficiency improvements, performance of energy audits or other measures to increase awareness of energy efficiency measures and technologies.
This is the first known effort to survey state agriculture departments in an attempt to identify and catalogue energy efficiency programs offered at the state level. This will be a learning experience for ACEEE as the organization tries to ascertain the range of programs in the states and where they are housed.
And while agriculture data will not be reflected in the final score the first year in order to give ACEEE researchers a chance to refine data sources and methodology, the organization will publish information about agricultural energy efficiency programs to give states with robust programs the credit they deserve.
ACEEE is seeking responses to their survey by May 31.
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), an important 25x’25 partner, understands the value of state participation in the survey. A recent item in the NASDA newsletter encouraged state agricultural officials around the country to respond to the survey, noting that the ACEEE scorecard was widely read by staff members at utilities across the country, lawmakers in local, state, and federal government, and other energy policy advocates. NASDA says the survey “is an opportunity for states to share their work in this area with a wider audience and to get credit for the important work they are doing.”
ACEEE points out that there are only 10 brief questions in the data request, and a full response should take no more than 15-20 minutes to complete. And even if a state agriculture department does not have any applicable programs, it is encouraged to note in the “additional comments” section of the survey any programs offered by other in-state agencies. The research group has promised to send participants a package of preliminary statistical findings and infographics.
This recognition at the state level of energy efficiency efforts undertaken by agricultural operations should be noted by federal policy makers also. With Congress about to embark on what appears to be a serious effort to draft a new five-year farm bill, energy efficiency is an important aspect of long-term farm policy. Initiatives such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which encourage and fund energy audits and efficiency measures, have been a critical part of a farm bill energy title since the beginning of the decade. Members of Congress should sustain these efficiency initiatives to help the nation achieve the full potential of a clean energy future.