New name, wider scope for CSU’s rural energy mission

A Colorado State University center that focuses on energy usage and conservation in the state’s agricultural sectors is getting a new name and expanding its mission.

The new Rural Energy Center – formerly the Center for Agricultural Energy — will continue to provide agricultural producers with energy audits and recommendations.  Now it will also offer energy assessments in Colorado’s mountain towns and small communities where economies are not as agriculturally based.rural energy

“This broader mission and new name better captures what CSU Extension is providing to Colorado’s communities in the way of energy opportunities,” said Cary Weiner, director of the center which also is part of the CSU Energy Institute.“We have a lot of different rural communities in Colorado, but all have energy issues and goals. We hope to be a resource for them.”

One of those ways is to provide broad, community-wide energy assessments  and help Colorado’s rural communities tap into programs the state’s larger cities and town rely on to add new energy resources or fund efficiency or conservation efforts.

 New services

With funding from the Colorado Energy Office and CSU Extension, Weiner and the center’s staff have awarded grants to two communities to help pilot the new services. In the coming months, they will work with the towns of Kersey and Buena Vista to evaluate their energy needs and identify key issues and potential solutions.

“Buildings in rural Colorado can be just as inefficient as buildings along the Front Range,” Weiner said. “We want to help them take advantage of some programs they may not know about.”

Extension educational programs serve 62 of Colorado’s 64 counties; the center will continue to work with the offices around the state to provide information about energy issues that affect them, such as oil and gas development or large-scale wind and solar farms, which tend to be located in less populated areas.

Weiner and others will continue to supply teachers with energy-related curriculum they can use in their classrooms and also educate people through the Colorado Master Energy Program.

“Rural communities tend to view energy differently,” Weiner said. “Energy tends to be more of an economic development opportunity for rural Colorado. We can help people understand what their energy options are and sort through issues to make the best decision for their situation.”