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Energy efficiency and resilience

The energy security issues we face as farmers are a massive threat to our businesses and call for greater resilience for each farm in how we approach energy.

Energy resilience involves adapting to a changing, energy constrained world and planning for a future where energy supplies are running out and prices rising. This means coping on the farm with supply shocks, pressure to reduce consumption and increasing self-sufficiency by generating energy on-site.

Strategies for energy resilience

There are several critical energy demands on farms, from being able to jump in the tractor for land work, to critical machinery and heating or cooling equipment. Noting all the critical areas of energy use the farm is dependent on will help plan for the future and anticipate and combat risks.

'Embodied energy' is a major part of any farm's overall energy use and therefore should be considered as part of planning a strategy – fertilisers and chemicals, buildings, and imported materials contain significant amounts of energy used in their manufacture and distribution. This therefore creates a reliance on energy from other sources and reduces on-farm energy resilience, so need to be taken into consideration. Can you source some supplies more locally, or switch to lower embodied energy alternatives?

So the first stage in any energy resilience strategy is to map existing energy demand and identify the largest and most critical elements of this. What can you not afford to be without power to in order to keep the heart of the farm running? Energy use can be identified by regularly checking meter readings and analysing energy bills.

Once energy use is identified, you can start to plan responses to cope with shocks such as price rises or interruptions to power supplies.

The next stages are vital - ensuring that energy use is first reduced, and then used more efficiently. Simple steps can reduce energy use by as much as 15% for example, which reduces dependence on unsustainable energy supplies and therefore improves on-farm resilience. A number of straight forward, on-farm measures to reduce energy use are outlined below.

The final part of any energy resilience strategy is considering on-farm renewable energy options, such as solar panels and biomass boilers. Renewable energy systems such as Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants can ensure certain critical infrastructure continues to receive power in the event of a power cut, and generate alternative sources of income. Renewable energy should only be considered after energy saving and efficiency steps have been taken. Some of the government-backed payments for renewable energy now require minimum levels of energy efficiency.

Read more about renewable energy options in the Energy Generation section

Click here to go to the next section on farm energy consumption.