Research drives new energy-saving policies to boost CEA sustainability

by CEA inSight
CEA lettuce growing facility

USDA-funded research has generated two new policy briefs, from The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) in conjunction with Resource Innovation Institute, recommending CEA-advancing measures to improve energy and water efficiency, cut costs, and reduce climate pollution in the sector — while accommodating controlled-environment agriculture’s continued growth.

The policy recommendations address multiple issues of concern to CEA growers and include utility rate design, building codes specific to CEA facilities, CEA energy rate structures, capital cost offsets for efficiency technologies, and resources for benchmarking energy and water use.

“It is the early days of controlled environment agriculture, and with substantial growth ahead in the sector, we see a foundational opportunity to advance efficient and sustainable farming,” said Jennifer Amann, ACEEE senior fellow and co-author of the reports. “Policymakers can work with producers to craft energy and water efficiency incentives that can lower production costs and consumer prices while reducing pollution from the agriculture industry.”

Resource Innovation Institute Executive Director Derek Smith, also a co-author of the reports, said, “Controlled environment agriculture enhances food security and nutrition. Growing facilities can be located in urban areas and other places not suitable for traditional agriculture, eliminating food deserts and creating economic development opportunities in communities while protecting against supply chain disruptions. It is critical to establish energy and water efficiency policies to support controlled environment agriculture, which will require deep engagement between the sector and policymakers.”

The individual reports can be found here:
Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Policy Guide: Benchmarking, Rate Design, Water Efficiency, and Additional Policies
Building Energy Codes and Industry Standards to Advance Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Resource Efficiency

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded a grant to ACEEE and RII to explore how to improve energy and water efficiency in the CEA sector. To inform the two reports, ACEEE and RII convened a series of workshops with CEA growers as well as state energy and agriculture officials to identify CEA resource challenges and to formulate policy solutions.

Image courtesy of ACEEE.

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