WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released three major reports today on energy use in agriculture. They cover how major energy sources are used on farms, estimate the potential savings available from energy efficiency, and review a total of 52 energy efficiency programs nationwide that are implementing savings in the agricultural sector.
"These reports provide a renewed focus on the energy use of farms and ranches, and in rural communities across the country," said Dr. Neal Elliott, co-author of the reports and ACEEE's Industrial and Agricultural Program Director. "Energy costs—both directly in the form of diesel fuel and electricity, and indirectly in the form of fertilizer and chemicals—are squeezing too many farmers and ranchers too hard. With energy prices continuing to rise, we could face a real crisis in the near future."
The first of the reports, On-Farm Energy Use Characterizations, highlights significant regional variation in both the mix of farm-type and in the use of energy found from state to state. The report points out many gaps in our knowledge of energy use in the agricultural sector, despite the continuing efforts of USDA's data collection. Detailed profiles were compiled at the national level as well as for California, Florida, Kansas, New York, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
The analysis results reported on in the second report, Potential Energy Efficiency Savings in the Agriculture Sector, indicate that the energy savings potential is more than 10% of total energy expenses nationwide and 35% of savings based on energy end-use that can be characterized despite gaps in knowledge about agricultural energy use. "Energy represents a greater fraction of operating expenses for the agricultural sector than all but the most energy-intensive manufacturing industries," said Elliott. "With savings opportunities of this magnitude, energy efficiency programs could help counter the economic effects of rising energy prices."
While the number of energy efficiency programs targeted at agriculture has fallen in the past decade, the 52 programs profiled in the last report, Energy Efficiency Programs in Agriculture: Design, Success, and Lessons Learned, demonstrate that models exist for effective energy efficiency programs targeted at farmers and ranchers. While the program approaches vary, with some focusing on particular applications such as irrigation and others focusing on a particular sub-sector such as dairy, the authors found that tailoring the program to meet the unique needs of the local, target audience and working through existing channels is the key to success.
"Energy use in agriculture has been neglected for more than a decade, in part as a result of low energy prices," said Steven Nadel, ACEEE's Executive Director. "ACEEE anticipated the increases in energy prices and has been active in reinvigorating interest in energy issues in agriculture. We worked with the Senate Agriculture Committee in crafting the energy title (Title IX) of the 2002 Farm Bill. Since the bill's passage, we have sought to provide information on energy efficiency opportunities in the agricultural sector, and to identify successful program strategies."
ACEEE's work on energy in agriculture will expand this fall with a "Forum on Energy Efficiency in Agriculture" to be held in Des Moines, Iowa, November 13—15, 2005. "We're organizing the conference so that the energy efficiency community can come together with the agricultural community to develop programs that can bolster the economic viability of the agricultural sector in the face of uncertain energy times," said Glee Murray, ACEEE's Communications Director and co-leader of agricultural activities. "Our work shows that there is much economic potential to be realized through coordinated action. We hope that the relationships built at the forum will begin to realize that potential."