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The Sustainable Energy for All initiative was launched by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to mobilize action and partnerships focused on sustainably meeting the increasing energy requirements of businesses and society. The initiative has set three primary objectives, to be met by 2030: ensuring universal access to modern energy services; doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
This report looks at the food and agriculture industry and identifies five priority actions it can take to reduce its energy use while simultaneously driving high performance.
The food and agricultural industry can be very energy-intensive. On a country level, the amount of energy devoted to food and agriculture will vary depending on how much food is produced in a country. In the United States, which is one of the world’s largest food producers, the energy consumed by the food and agriculture industry accounts for nearly 19 percent of all energy consumed in the country. It is estimated that globally, the food chain—including input manufacturing, production, processing, transportation marketing and consumption—accounts for approximately 30 percent of global energy consumption and produces over 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Companies can modify current practices at each stage of the food supply chain to reduce energy intensity.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, both on-farm and post-harvest losses add up to around one-third of all food produced, and the energy that is embedded in that food is consequently lost or wasted. This statistic alone underlines the importance of energy efficiency and renewable energy in the food and agriculture industry.
The food and agriculture industry relies heavily on petroleum-based fuels to power equipment and vehicles to harvest crops and raise livestock. It also requires electricity and heat for manufacturing and processing. While increasing energy costs and slim margins have driven companies towards increasing energy efficiency, there is ample potential for additional improvement.
Companies have the opportunity to use their waste streams to generate energy and to use innovative irrigation methods to improve energy efficiency. Many companies in the industry that have already embarked on energy efficiency programs have benefited from tangible cost-savings.
In addition, companies can drive business value by increasing the percentage of renewable energy in their overall energy mix. Food and agriculture companies have a unique opportunity to use their waste streams to create new sources of revenue and reduce costs of energy production on-site. The unique ability to generate energy on-site can both reduce purchased electricity costs and increase revenue through the sale of biomass.
Lastly, food and agriculture companies must transport their goods to reach customers and retailers. Transportation is highly energy-intensive, especially as refrigeration is often required. Through the use of improved transportation and infrastructure, better insulation of food storage facilities, reductions in packaging and food waste, and reductions in the distance between where food is produced and consumed are all business opportunities for reducing the energy use in the industry.
The food and agriculture industry can take five priority actions to become more energy efficient and to advance its business opportunities in the sustainable energy market:
Create closed-loop systems that reuse waste streams as production inputs.
Increase the energy efficiency of growing food crops.
Increase the energy efficiency of production, packaging and transportation processes.
Increase the use of renewable energy to meet operational energy needs.
Use waste streams to provide access to energy in areas where access is limited.
October 2, 2012
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