We all like to save a buck. But what if you not only saved a buck today, but one tomorrow, and the next day and for the rest of your life?
Hopefully, that’s a lot of bucks.
Last month, I chaired a panel discussion at the annual USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum on the issue of energy efficiency. As anyone who runs an electric cooperative will tell you, the least expensive kilowatt is the one you don’t have to produce, especially during “peak” periods when extreme heat or cold stress the system. We are getting more efficient at managing energy consumption. Our 650 utility borrowers are working with business and residential consumers to fund projects to better manage energy use by blowing insulation into older, drafty homes, and helping consumers caulk, weather strip, and replace older, inefficient appliances with new ones.
My panelists included Tom Van Paris, Vice President, Member Services and Communications, for Hoosier Energy in Bloomington, Indiana, and Martin Lowery, Chief Operating Officer for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. They spoke forcefully about the impact conservation can have on the grid. For example, Mr. Van Paris estimates that 8 percent of his utility’s customers have four or more refrigerators and freezers. His utility will pick up old, worn out ones, dispose of them and give the customer a credit. Mr. Lowery spoke of the importance of controlling peak load. USDA last year helped fund millions of dollars in “smart grid” technology. During peak periods, a utility or a customer can reduce usage by, for example, reducing hot water heater temperatures or shifting dishwasher or clothes dryer operation to later at night.
My other panelist was my Assistant Administrator, Nivin Elgohary, who explained how USDA is partnering with our client utilities to bring energy efficiency benefits to them and to their customers. We offer energy resource conservation loans, Rural Economic Development Loans and Grants, and our newest program, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program. This exciting new program complements President Obama’s Recovery through Retrofit (RTR) initiative by increasing green job opportunities and boosting energy savings.