Energy Input-Output Audits

Traditional energy audits are relatively narrow in scope, often only looking at electricity use or perhaps heating fuel. These analyses can be useful for identifying certain energy efficiency opportunities, but can’t offer proprietors the bird’s eye view of their operation needed to inform broader strategic considerations.

FarmFoodEnergyThe farm energy input-output audits I offer are far broader than typical energy audits, quantifying all energy inputs as well as estimates of food production to study a farm’s efficiency at turning input energy – most of which comes from nonrenewable sources – into food. In these audits I quantify two broad classes of energy use, direct energy and indirect energy. Most farmers think only in terms of direct energy, which includes fuels like gasoline and diesel that are paid for directly. Money spent on these fuels represents only a small share of total expenditures on energy though; energy used indirectly to manufacture machinery, equipment, building materials and consumable farm inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides and animal feed is often larger than direct energy use. Farmers pay for indirect energy too, although the costs are hidden in the purchase prices of the goods and services they buy and aren’t readily visible. My farm energy input-output audits allow farmers to gain a more expansive picture of how energy fuels their farming operation, allowing them to better control their costs, help their bottom lines and perhaps even craft marketing programs to set their products above those offered by competitors.

While most audits I do are for Vermont farms, I’m happy to work with proprietors outside the state and even outside the United States. I generally gather data using a survey, and provide a report summarizing results. I also offer phone or in-person consultations to help proprietors or farm managers understand the analysis and strategize how best to use it to refine their operation and business and marketing plans. You can read through a brief example report here. While most of the farmers I’ve worked with run commercial enterprises, homesteaders and non-commercial farms can use these audits to help buffer their operations from the impacts associated with rising energy prices or, for educational farmers, as pedagogical aids.

The cost of a farm energy input-output audit ranges from $300 to over $1,000, depending on the scale and complexity of the operation. I offer discounted rates to those who allow me to feature their data in educational media. If you’d like to discuss having me audit your farm or other food operation, email me at Eric [at] HowEricLives [dot] com or reach me by phone at 802.881.8675 and I’ll return your call as quickly as I can.