Energy is a critical and expensive input for all sectors of the food system. From powering tractors to heating greenhouses and firing ovens, energy is indispensable. Electricity, heating oil, natural gas, diesel and motor fuel are the primary energy sources in the food system. Each has its own markets, generators, suppliers, distributors, and regulatory systems. Each also has its own pricing structure and emissions profile. Every dollar spent on energy costs by food producers is one less dollar going to profits or to other investments.
Energy usage can contribute greenhouse gas emissions to our atmosphere, fueling climate change. The Commonwealth has set ambitious targets under the Global Warming Solutions Act to reduce our State’s greenhouse gas emissions, and thus every sector must be scrutinized for emissions reduction opportunities. We are now leading the country in energy efficiency programs and policies, and are installing significant new solar, wind, and other clean energy facilities.
While food production and processing consumes significant amounts of energy, there are also increasing amounts of renewable energy through solar thermal and solar photovoltaic, wind, and anaerobic digestion facilities being incorporated into our food system. Much of this distributed generation powers on-farm and on-site operations, while also supplying clean energy to the electrical grid. In this way, farmers and others are generating energy, reducing pollution, supplementing their income and reducing energy demand and emissions.
Despite the growth of energy efficiency and renewable energy investments in the agricultural sectors, barriers to wider-spread adoption remain. Barriers include uncertainty over financial incentives, State and local regulations, and the uncoordinated and complicated landscape of the energy sector.