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Two Ways Farms Can Save Money On Energy: Use Less And Pay Less

By M. Charles Gould

There are two ways to save money on energy: Use less and pay less. Utilities and electric co-ops offer two free services to farmers that result in opportunities to use less electricity and pay less for it. These two services are a utility rate analysis and an energy audit.

A rate analysis evaluates at least three years of electric bills to uncover errors, overcharges and different rate options to reduce the cost of electricity purchased by a farm. Dairy farms and farms that use a lot of power for short periods of time for a specific purpose during specific times of the year (i.e. grain dryer, irrigation, etc.) stand to greatly benefit from a rate analysis, but all farms should do it anyway. For example, a dairy farm may discover that changing the milking time to a time that coincides with a cheaper rate may significantly reduce their power bill. A rate analysis is something Consumers Energy is really emphasizing at this time. Farmers in the Consumers Energy service area should contact Sanju Guinn at (517) 395-8172 to schedule a rate analysis. Farms serviced by DTE and electric co-ops should call the customer service number listed on their electric bill.

An energy audit is the study of energy usage, conducted for the purpose of saving energy and money. Consumers Energy, DTE and electric co-ops have individuals who conduct agricultural energy audits on their behalf. The audits they conduct are not the Type 2 audits required for USDA Rural Development REAP or Natural Resources Conservation Service EQIP grant funding. Rather, they are basic, simple audits that identify areas where energy consumption can be reduced through more energy efficient technology such as lighting and motors. Auditors use the audits they complete to maximize the amount of rebate dollars coming to a farm to implement the energy efficient technologies recommended by the farm’s audit. The audit they conduct does not cost the farm any money because it is a service provided by the farm’s utility or electric co-op. Going through an audit takes a few hours (depending on farm size), but it is a relatively painless process that can yield tremendous financial benefits. Contact the following individuals for more information about conducting an agricultural energy audit:

Farmers in the Consumers Energy service area

Duane Watson | Agricultural Program Specialist/Energy Advisor II

Cell: 517-749-6668 or

Hollie Whitmire | Agricultural Program Specialist

Cell: 810-241-9993 or

Farmers in the DTE service area

Sean McCoy | Outreach Account Manager

Cell: 313-400-7863 or

Farmers in an electric co-op service area regardless of location around the state

Jim Kunisch | Agricultural Field Outreach Manager | WECC (for the MI Energy Optimization program)

Cell: 810-300-8620 or

A list of agricultural energy efficiency rebates offered to Consumers Energy customers can be found here starting on page 38. A list of agricultural energy efficiency rebates offered to DTE customers can be found at Click on “2017 Applications & Worksheets” and then click on “2017 Agricultural Application” to access the full list. A list of agricultural energy efficiency rebates for co-ops can be found at Click on the “Farm Programs” button on the right side of the front page.

Finally, more information on using less and paying less for energy will be presented at the Powering Michigan Agriculture Conference on March 9 at the Kellogg Center on campus. Each of the individuals listed above will be speaking at the conference and farmers will have an opportunity to visit with them one-on-one. Conference attendees will also hear from farmers who have gone through the audit process and implemented energy efficiency practices and renewable energy technologies. The conference is designed to be a one-stop shop for farmers wanting more information on how to reduce their energy expenses. The complete conference schedule can be found at The conference begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m. The registration fee is $40 per person or $75 for two individuals from the same farm.

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