Energy efficiency

USDA Announces Funding for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that rural agricultural producers and small business owners can now apply for resources to purchase and install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. These efforts help farmers, ranchers and other small business owners save money on their energy bills, reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, support America’s clean energy economy, and cut carbon pollution. The resources announced today are made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America,” Vilsack said. “The funding we are making available will help farmers, ranchers, business owners, tribal organizations and other entities incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations. Doing so can help a business reduce energy use and costs while improving its bottom line. While saving producers money and creating jobs, these investments reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut carbon pollution as well.”

USDA is making more than $280 million available to eligible applicants through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Application deadlines vary by project type and the type of assistance requested. Details on how to apply are on page 78029 of the December 29, 2014 Federal Register or are available by contacting state Rural Development offices.

USDA is offering grants for up to 25 percent of total project costs and loan guarantees for up to 75 percent of total project costs for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. The REAP application window has been expanded. USDA will now accept and review loan and grant applications year-round.

Eligible renewable energy projects must incorporate commercially available technology. This includes renewable energy from wind, solar, ocean, small hydropower, hydrogen, geothermal and renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters). The maximum grant amount is $500,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.

Energy efficiency improvement projects eligible for REAP funding include lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, fans, automated controls and insulation upgrades that reduce energy consumption. The maximum grant amount is $250,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.

USDA is offering a second type of grant to support organizations that help farmers, ranchers and small businesses conduct energy audits and operate renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include: units of state, tribal or local governments; colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning; rural electric cooperatives and public power entities, and conservation and development districts. The maximum grant is $100,000. Applications for these particular grants have been available since December 29 of last year and are due February 12.

The REAP program was created in the 2002 Farm Bill. Because of the success of the program, Congress reauthorized it in the 2014 Farm Bill with guaranteed funding of no less than $50 million in annual funding for the duration of the 5 year bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.

Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million for more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide. This includes $361 million in REAP grants and loans for more than 2,900 renewable energy systems. When fully operational, these systems are expected to generate more than 6 billion kilowatt hours annually – enough to power more than 5.5 million homes for a year.

In 2013, owners of the Ideal Dairy restaurant in Richfield, Utah, used REAP funding to install 80 solar modules and two 10-kilowatt inverters, which convert energy from solar panels to electricity. The owners have saved, on average, $400 per month. These savings have helped them preserve their restaurant and livelihood.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.

Do energy-efficiency standards bring down prices?

Read the full story at EnvironmentalResearchWeb.

Is your fridge an energy guzzling E, or a super efficient A++? Over the last 20 years people in the European Union have become used to energy consumption labels when purchasing home appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines. Many predicted that the introduction of these energy-efficiency standards would increase the price of appliances, but now a study shows that energy-efficiency policies appear to drive down quality-adjusted prices – prices that are independent of new features and improvements.

IT Energy Savings for Non-Techies: Identifying and Understanding Opportunities to Reduce Costs

January 28, 2015, 12:00-1:15 CST
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This webinar will provide information and resources on driving computer and office equipment energy savings to general practitioners. Webinar presenters will review and prioritize energy savings opportunities, explain them in layman’s terms, and provide practical tips for getting IT managers and other key decision makers to support these efforts. In addition to learning about concrete next steps, webinar attendees will hear about free technical support and software made available through the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, as well as incentives from electric utilities.

Multiple Benefits of Business-Sector Energy Efficiency: A Survey of Existing and Potential Measures

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Businesses that implement energy efficiency improvements often enjoy other benefits besides utility bill savings. However previous efforts to measure multiple benefits have been sporadic and far from rigorous. Still, evidence suggests that including non-energy impacts can reduce the payback time of some energy efficiency improvements by 50% or better. This report draws on expert interviews and a synthesis of existing literature to describe energy efficiency’s multiple benefits to business enterprises. Including non-energy benefits can strengthen the case for business investment in energy efficiency and also contribute to the cost-benefit screening of regional energy efficiency programs.

Extra Credit for Efficiency

Read the full story in National Journal.

Nationwide, energy costs eat up more than $2,000 of an average household’s income each year, according to data from the Energy Information Administration—typically more than residents pay for property taxes or insurance. But that expense is rarely considered when it comes to valuing a house. In the eyes of mortgage lenders, a drafty home that leaks heat is no different than one with double-paned windows and a state-of-the art furnace.

That’s something that Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, a former Realtor, wants to remedy. His bipartisan bill with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado would instruct federally backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration to consider energy costs in the mortgage-valuation process, alongside traditional factors such as an applicant’s likely tax and insurance bills.

5 keys to a successful energy performance contract

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Set it up well and an energy performance contract (EnPC) can achieve amazing things for businesses with must-be-met targets to save or generate their own energy. Such as finally getting postponed maintenance and asset replacement projects underway. Or overcoming scepticism that promised benefits will materialize. Or doing away with the need for upfront capital, when a project would pay for itself quickly if it could just get done.

It’s vital to get your key decision makers to understand how an EnPC approach can deliver the results they want.

That’s why I’m a huge fan of EnPCs. They’re a great vehicle to getting things done and making big dents in a business’ energy consumption and carbon emissions.

So what makes a successful EnPCs?

Simple. The good ones are planned and socialized well.

Yes, like many things in life and business, preparation is the secret to reaping the rewards an energy performance contract can deliver. So here are my five top things to get right when preparing an EnPC:

3 energy efficiency myths debunked

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Common misconceptions about efficiency not only can increase energy use, but actually can end up costing consumers and business money. From using less energy to energy audits to the cost dilemma, below are three common misconceptions that should be debunked.