Incorporating Sustainable Energy Decisions In Agriculture
Encouraging energy conservation (EC), energy efficiency (EE), and renewable energy (RE) implementation has been a fundamental policy tool for promoting sustainability in Nova Scotia (NS) over the past several years. However, on-farm decisions on technology options are based primarily on cost-benefit analysis and there is little consideration or support for determining the environmental and social considerations associated with energy choices. Decision-making that considers sustainability will often include social, economic, and environmental elements. Conceptual frameworks exist for incorporating sustainability considerations into decision-making. However, existing frameworks may not be appropriate for on-farm energy decision-making in NS as none link sustainability to energy decisions at the small enterprise level. The main goal of this research is to develop and test a framework that incorporates sustainability considerations into NS farm decision-making when selecting EC, EE and RE options to improve farm energy management. Mail surveys, as well as interviews and observations were used to gather information on NS farms and develop the Framework for Energy Sustainability in Agriculture (FESA). Case Studies were used to test FESA. Survey results showed that NS farmers have made significant reductions in energy use (32%) over the past decade through implementing various energy choices. A large majority of registered NS farmers implemented an EE, EC or RE upgrade on the farm between 2007 and 2012 (72.9%). While many farmers have had support (e.g. energy audits), energy upgrade opportunities remain. Also, as technology changes, new opportunities arise (e.g. LED lighting). FESA builds upon and increases the relevance of energy audits. FESA uses a management system approach to allow for continual improvement over time and consideration of environmental and social priorities, not just economics, when exploring energy upgrades. It provides a series of steps that can be followed by farmers, and energy professionals providing support services, for energy-related projects on the farm. The past energy policies and programs, and the many farmers who now exist as examples to others, may help carry the momentum forward and result in more implementation and future energy savings. Following FESA will help farmers make informed energy decisions that are integrated into whole farm management.