Electric co-ops in Colorado will be partnering with the Colorado Energy Office, which recently announced a $1.1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture award to help finance energy efficiency improvements for Colorado farmers.
The award comes through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program and is matched through a $1.3 million cash and in-kind combined contribution from CEO, the Colorado Department of Agriculture and utility and industry partners such as Colorado’s electric cooperatives. The funds will help finance energy and water saving projects identified through CEO’s Colorado Dairy and Irrigation Efficiency Program.
Over the two-year grant period, the efficiency improvements are expected to achieve more than 5,250 megawatt-hours of electricity savings and 524,000 gallons of water savings annually.
“Over the last two years the Colorado Energy Office laid the foundation and identified significant opportunities for cost-effective energy savings in Colorado’s agriculture industry. Having USDA on-board as a funding partner helps overcome the upfront investment barrier so farmers can affordably build out projects that can provide long-term savings,” said CEO Director Jeff Ackermann.
The electric co-ops were an integral part of the program when it was launched in 2015 in territory served by Morgan County Rural Electric Association and Highline Electric Association. Its purpose was to provide agricultural producers free energy audits and technical assistance designed to select and implement cost-effective improvements that will reduce energy, water and operating costs.
So far, 63 producers have participated and 2,800 MWh of potential electricity savings have been identified through the audits. The program will expand to 200 producers during the next two years and is expected to generate more than $4.5 million in potential savings in only five years.
“This grant will enable the implementation of cost-effective projects identified through Colorado’s statewide program, while meeting NRCS’s goal to integrate energy conservation into agricultural practices,” said Clint Evans, state conservationist for the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.
Colorado’s agriculture industry faces direct energy expenses of more than $400 million annually that account for 7 percent of the industry’s overall expenses, according to CEO’s 2013 Agricultural Energy Market Research Report. The report identifies 90,000 MWh of potential electricity savings annually and identifies dairies and irrigators as the most energy intense sectors with the greatest opportunity for savings.