Pilot program cracks through business challenges
Energy audit to help egg producer identify areas to save
EnergyLines March 2020
Wanting to meet the needs of farmers and rural business owners, Hoosier Energy launched a pilot program to conduct rural energy audits and find ways to improve operations.
So far, six audits have taken place in service areas for Whitewater Valley REMC, Henry County REMC, Southeastern Indiana REMC, Jackson County REMC and Orange County REMC.
A large agribusiness in the pilot program is Rose Acre Farms, which has 15 accounts at SEI REMC with a total load of about 1,900 kW, according to General Manager Keith Mathews. Rose Acre Farms, one of the largest egg producers in the United States, is one of SEI REMC’s top 20 industrial loads with all accounts combined.
“I’m looking forward to finding out what the audit shows and what benefits they will reap or get out of that process,” Mathews says of Rose Acre’s energy audit. “We want to make sure everybody is conscientious on how they use power.”
Mike Owens, Hoosier Energy Key Accounts manager, estimates that the audit will bring around $22,000 a year in savings, although data is still being gathered for the final report.
The Rural Energy Audit Pilot Project started last year when Hoosier Energy and co-op personnel decided to find a way to meet the needs of rural businesses, especially farmers, that needed energy audits in order to apply for USDA funding.
“If you’re a member of an operation and you want to borrow capital – say go to the USDA for a loan or grant – the first thing that the USDA requires is that you do an energy audit,” says Owens. “You’re on your own to get that energy audit and it tends to be expensive. Our pilot project gives businesses a lot of options to pursue funding.”
Owens and Mathews both hope more grant money will be secured to extend the pilot project and expand the number of businesses that are helped.
“If companies like Rose Acre can shave off 1 or 2 percent, that’s going to be a great value for them,” Mathews says. “And if they can shave off when they peak, that’s another thing that could be a win-win situation for the REMC and the company. We can pass on savings that way.”
Scott Bowers, Vice President of Public Policy and Member Services, says pilot programs are important because they offer the opportunity to try new ideas and assess their long-term benefit while keeping upfront financial and resource investments to a minimum. Funding from state and federal agencies is also available for pilot programs like this one.
If the pilot is successful, the size and scope of the project could be expanded, making it available to all of the member cooperatives.