Roundtable with U.S. Rep. Salinas, USDA officials focuses on rural energy, resilience needs

Roundtable with U.S. Rep. Salinas, USDA officials focuses on rural energy, resilience needs

From left: USDA’s Margi Hoffman, U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas and USDA’s Andrew Berke attend the April 5 roundtable at Little Prince of Oregon Nursery in Aurora.

Agricultural businesses and rural communities need investments in infrastructure and clean energy to become more resilient to climate change. That was the message at a roundtable discussion this month for federal officials to hear from Oregon agricultural producers, rural community leaders and others.

The event took place at Little Prince of Oregon Nursery in Aurora. U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas and Andrew Berke, administrator for USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, joined agricultural producers and representatives from Oregon Association of Nurseries, Oregon Agriculture Foundation, Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Energy Trust of Oregon and others to discuss climate resilience and energy.

USDA provides much-needed support to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses plan for and install energy-efficiency improvements and projects that generate renewable energy such as solar and hydropower. This can lower energy costs, make their businesses more resilient and even generate more income.

Energy Trust supports these projects too, and combining funds means more help for rural communities.

Little Prince is an example of an agricultural business making investments to maximize energy efficiency – with the help of Energy Trust incentives.

Over more than a decade, Little Prince has completed upgrades that include using high-efficiency condensing heaters in greenhouses and insulating pipes to use less natural gas, along with adding LED lighting that can use less electricity and even make plants grow faster.

Importantly, these projects combined have saved Little Prince tens of thousands of dollars a year on energy bills.

“Resilience means different things to different people, whether we’re talking about energy resilience at a community level or individual level to better manage through grid outages and disruptions caused by extreme weather,” said Hannah Cruz, Energy Trust’s senior stakeholder relations and policy manager who attended the April 5 roundtable.

“Investing in energy efficiency, solar electric and battery energy storage can help, and they can lead to utility bill savings. Saving money means Oregonians and businesses have more resources for other needs. And everyone using less energy means reduced demand on the grid, which is especially important in economically disadvantaged rural areas,” said Cruz.

Others attending the roundtable included representatives from Oregon State University, Wy`East, SEDCOR, Salem Electric, local FFA students and city officials from nearby Woodburn and Donald.