ENCON3: Resources for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs

Heat recovery systems like this one recover heat from cooling systems to heat water.

Heat recovery systems like this one recover heat from cooling systems to heat water.


Energy expenses are a significant part of a farm’s budget, contributing up to ten percent of total costs and costs U.S. farmer’s nearly $10 billion annually1. Deploying energy practices that reduce energy (i.e. tire pressure, air sealing and weatherization, more efficient lighting, motors and fans, energy efficient heating and cooling systems) can save profits. Energy efficiency programs can save in multiple ways. Climate and environmental impacts are reduced when we burn less fossil fuel, farmers save money on their utility bills when they use less energy, and utilities save shareholder or cooperative member dollars that would otherwise be used to build new electrical generation. Compared to the costs to produce new energy, energy efficiency programs are far more economical, on average 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh) compared to 6-15 cents per kilowatt hour to generate new energy2.

A few states, including California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon,  and Wisconsin have very active state-wide energy efficiency programs. These programs assist farms, rural businesses and residential customers with technical information as well as cash rebates and other financial incentives for installing qualified equipment.

For background information on renewable energy programs and renewable energy on the power grid, please see our energy briefing sheets:

A good place to start looking for information as well as energy incentives and grants is to contact your local utility customer representative. The type of utility that serves your farm or home is a factor in the types of energy efficiency programs available. Investor owned utilities (privately owned utility whose stock is publicly traded) are generally regulated by a state public service commission while rural electric cooperatives (a type of cooperative that delivers electricity to its members) are regulated by their members and by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Grants and incentives may be available for installing energy efficiency or renewable energy projects. Your local utility may be offering incentives that are usually are tied to reducing demand loads during peak usage periods (summer afternoons). The state you live in may be offering grants for energy efficiency or renewable energy. If you live in rural areas or small urban areas (<50,000), there is a federal program called Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) that offers grant and/or loan guarantees for energy efficiency or renewable energy projects on a competitive basis. There are also funds for feasibility studies for large renewable energy projects or energy audits for energy efficiency projects. Any agricultural enterprise or small business (as defined by USDA Rural Development) can apply for REAP grants. There are also business tax incentives at the state and federal levels. Federal conservation grant programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or the EQIP Conservation Activity Plan (CAP), offer funding for whole farm conservation planning, which includes an energy audit. These programs are all subject to changes in state and federal budgets and policies.


  1. A Farmer Guide to Energy Self Reliance: How to decrease energy consumption and increase profits
    A farm energy resource guide published by the Institute for Energy and the Environment.
  2. American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)
    Non profit organization providing information on energy efficient policies, programs and technologies.
  3. Center for Ecological Technology
    A non-profit organization that demonstrates and promotes practical, affordable solutions for farms and rural businesses: including energy efficient lighting, pumps, coolers and solar hot water systems.
  4. Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE)
    Provides a comprehensive list of local, state, utility, and federal energy programs.
  5. Energy Efficient Motors: Ag Technical Brief
    The National Food and Energy Council worked with the Electric Power Research Institute to produce this ag technical brief that reviews the research and practical aspects of using energy efficient motors on farms.
  6. Farm Energy Program
    The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), a national non-profit organization, provides a wide variety of farm energy information and policy resources for rural, clean energy programs.
  7. Low Energy: Low Input Farming
    A typical farm spends considerable amounts purchasing pesticides and fertilizers that are derived from petroleum. Adopting lower-input systems can reduce energy dependence. One valuable resource is the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. They provide technical information, including a national database of projects as well as grants for projects.
  8. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
    NREL is a federal laboratory dedicated to the research, development, commercialization and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency systems. Their website provides a range of fact sheets, research and technical reports. They have several interactive geographic information system (GIS) and other computer based tools including one for biomass resources and a wind speed map that can help you assess whether your land has good wind resources.
  9. National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
    Provides a range of technical and financial assistance to eligible landowners and agricultural producers manage natural resources in a sustainable manner. One example is the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) program, a volunteer program that farmers can enroll in to get financial assistance in doing conservation activity plans for their agricultural enterprises. An energy audit is one of the planning components. Farmers should contact their local farm service agency to find out which EQIP programs are available in their area.
  10. Tax Incentives
    Many states and the federal government provide cash rebates and personal income tax or business tax credits for improving farm energy efficiency or for clean energy upgrades. These programs change regularly. Some examples include: 

    • Business Energy Investment Tax Credit – 30% credit for solar and wind; 10% credit for geothermal, microturbines and CHP.
    • Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC) – 2.2¢ per kWh for wind, geothermal and closed-loop bio-mass; 1.1¢ per kWh for others; Applies for first 10 years of operation.
    • Energy-Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction – for improving the energy efficiency of commercial buildings.

    You can find incentive updates at the DSIRE website

  11. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Rural Development
    Provides information and links to federal energy programs that provide a range of incentives and information to farmers and rural businesses.
  12. U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) – Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
    Provides a range of information, including energy best practices and funding and business opportunities.

1 A Farmers Guide to Energy Self Reliance. Institute for Energy and the Environment. University of Vermont Law School.
2 Lazard. Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis, Version 3.0. (Lazard, February 2009). Accessed 2/25/11 at http://tinyurl.com/49gc24l.

Sanford, S., P. Porter. 2012. Resources for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs. Module 3 in S. Lezberg, S. Sanford, and M. Jungwirth (eds). On-farm Energy Conservation and Efficiency. On-line Curriculum. Bioenergy Training Center. http://fyi.uwex.edu/biotrainingcenter