Convener�s Summary of the Meeting
Shared by: homers
Convener’s Summary of the Meeting Agricultural Sector – 11/20/07 – SCE AgTac Facility, Tulare, CA The Minutes as a Record It is felt that the meeting minutes as reported by Accenture are an accurate record of both the content and the tone of the meeting. Summary of Meeting Outcomes This meeting had two sessions, one in the morning for production agriculture (billed as “irrigated agriculture”) and one in the afternoon for dairymen. The morning session was well-attended, but with only one production farmer. There was quite a bit of carry-over into the afternoon but again, there were no production dairymen in attendance. I feel that this is an indication of how difficult communications can be in the agricultural sector, certainly given the time frame and timing of this process. The above being said, there was a very wide-ranging discussion and the participants were very well versed in CPUC programs and the purpose of the meetings. There were several themes that surfaced: Risk and uncertainty – production agriculture has to deal with the vagaries of weather on a daily basis. They are also considered “price takers”, not “price makers”, which means they are many times at the mercy of uncertain and sometimes rapidly changing markets (in some crops, hedging through the use of futures is a very common practice as a means of mitigating risk). Globalization is a concern for certain crops and even competition from other states can be problematic. The bottom line is that agriculture is a very risky business at best. Energy is, for the most part, a relatively small portion of production budgets. Thus, if a farmer has a successful system in place, he is loath to change it absent clear and compelling reasons. For dairymen especially, they will not adopt technology if it appears to pose a threat to their herds. Thus, to the extent that energy efficiency as a concept is “sold” only as new technology or management, energy efficiency is perceived as a risk. Self-generation – whether through solar, wind, or use of manure (or some other waste stream) for bio-gas, there is interest in self-generation. However, the benefit/cost ratios are not attractive absent some incentives and in the case of bio-gas, there are other concerns. Biogas generation is not a simple process. Current tariffs are not perceived as fair to the gas generator. However, biogas conceivably creates three revenue streams, gas fed back into the system (net-metering), gas used on-site to offset conventional forms (electricity or natural gas), or through the creation of pollution reduction credits (especially as regards potential programs that are created as a result of AB 32). This is an area where there was confidence that new technology and changes in regulations would result in widespread adaptation. However, the timing and impact of the adaptation was unclear. Regulatory issues – increased pressure from regulatory agencies concerning air and water pollution are a primary concern, especially for the dairy industry. These regulations could drive adoption of systems that increase energy use. On the other hand they may provide opportunities for EE programs as in many cases, reduced energy use can offset current impacts. Not so evident is the effect of new immigration policies. If new policies result in reduced labor forces, it may be that energy-using technology will have to be adopted (e.g., automated sprinkler systems to take the place of irrigators that operated a furrow system or moved portable sprinkler lines). Overall goals and benchmarking – several cross-currents were identified that would affect energy use by year 2020. Technology could result in lower average pressures required for sprinkler and drip irrigation systems that are in place now. However, technology required to address air and water quality concerns might require more energy. It is uncertain as to the resolution of immigration issues and growers may again turn to energy-using technology to substitute capital for labor. There was no talk of benchmarks for on-site energy use except for the measure of Overall Pumping Efficiency during a pump test. Without benchmarks it will be difficult to create reasonable goals and to know when they have been reached. This lack of goals and benchmarks affects the amount of resources that will be allocated to the sector as other sectors, with more defined potential, will be serviced first. Education and Training – There is a need for education. It was indicated that there were few good well designers (an efficient water well results in less drawdown during pumping, resulting less total dynamic head needed, resulting in less energy needed to pump an acre-foot of water). Also, outside of the apprenticeship program at SCE there is no formal process in place to train pump testers- there is a shortage of pump testers in northern California. Whole system auditors are needed. For example, a pump test should be done in conjunction with a total irrigation system audit (possibly using something like the Mobile Irrigation Laboratory concepts). Dairymen need to look at all energy uses, including fans, milking systems, water supply, lighting, and refrigeration. Technology – Agriculture is not adverse to technology, it just requires proof that it works consistently. There were several examples of shifts in production practices provided. It was again a matter of risk and profitability. Given an effective technology, the real issue is how to get it transferred into mainstream use. EE Program Design - It was suggested the University of California Cooperative Extension, the local Resource Conservation Districts, and even local NRCS agents, all who are trusted resources for agriculture, could be used to spread the message of energy efficiency and programs available to help improve energy conservation. Many other states have energy efficiency programs and it may be that California would profit from closer examination of these programs. University demonstration farms and dairies should be utilized more as these operators will take on more risk in order to fulfill their mission of education, research, and development. EE programs need to be simple and coordinated so that all opportunities are easy to identify. In summary, clear and defined strategies were not developed during this meeting. Rather, the discussions identified the major factors that affect energy efficiency improvements in this sector.