I had the opportunity to have an internship with Center for Climate Protection working in the Renewable Energy Program. A big part of the Program’s work involves advocating for Community Choice Energy in the Central Valley. The Central Valley uses a huge amount of energy and has great potential to increase its use of renewable resources, which are abundant in the Central Valley. The largest industry in the Central Valley is agriculture, which means that to get any local government to adopt Community Choice means getting agricultural interests in the area on board. By spreading the knowledge of Community Choice, we are hoping to be able to get farmers and other Ag sector businesses on board which in turn will hopefully get the regional elected officials on board.
My work included assessing best practices for water and energy conservation in the Central Valley associated mainly with agricultural operations. I started by working on a database with names and contact information of farmers in the Central Valley, mostly focusing on Fresno County. By doing so, there were many other ag-related companies and organizations which I kept running into. I decided to add them to the database because they are an integral part of the agriculture industry in California. Thus, I created different sheets for growers, marketing programs, organizations, events, and funding opportunities all having to do with the agriculture industry. As the project progressed and my understanding of the agricultural industry grew, I made sheets for best practices and a picture of what the most prevalent energy best-practices are in California agriculture.
The next step was to look into growers in areas where Community Choice Agencies (CCAs) operate to be able to have input on how a Community Choice is different from Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs). I created another database of growers mainly in Sonoma County and Mendocino County, focusing on wine growers, orchards, crops, and livestock due to the fact that they are the most common agriculture operations in Northern California.
Finally, we developed survey questions to ask the growers in Northern California areas to assess the impact Community Choice has had on their operations. Questions included things like whether or not they receive service from their CCA or IOU, how they are liking the energy services they receive, whether or not they have been able to improve operations or complete and energy project more easily, and whether they have benefited by having a choice. I have taken the information we find useful, I created a survey to be emailed out to the list of growers in Northern California. The results will serve as a basis for a brief paper on the topic of the relationship between Community Choice and agriculture.
In the end, I hope the project I have had the opportunity to work on can help spread the knowledge and benefits of CCAs and how they can help advance energy efficiency and renewables in agriculture operations. California has enacted laws that set the state on a course to reduce the amount of non-renewable resources we use. One of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions is the agriculture industry, so we need to be able to do a good job of conserving water and energy in that sector.