Monterey Bay Community Power on July 27 launched its Agricultural Electrification Grant Program, which is intended to support the replacement of fossil-fuel-powered equipment with new electric equipment.
The inaugural and "exploratory" program has earmarked $160,000 for replacement of tractors, coolers and boilers, forklifts, light- and heavy-duty vehicles, diesel-powered irrigation pumps, and other farm equipment that will be awarded to the community choice aggregator's agricultural customers through a competitive bidding process.
MBCP will provide a minimum of eight of its agricultural customers with as much as $20,000 each to assist with the purchase of "fuel-switching" or electric agricultural equipment.
Among the factors the CCA will consider are the greenhouse gas emissions reductions for each project on a dollars-per-metric-ton basis and the benefits to people who work close to the equipment, as well as whether the applicant has received funding from the Carl Moyer or Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions (FARMER) programs.
Of the available funding, MBCP has allocated $80,000 for Monterey County agricultural businesses; $40,000 for Santa Cruz County agricultural businesses; $20,000 for San Benito County agricultural businesses; and $20,000 for agricultural businesses within the cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay.
Agriculture continues to be one of California's largest industries, with roughly 77,500 farms and ranches producing more than 400 different commodities. The California Air Resources Board estimates that there are some 160,000 pieces "of offroad, diesel-fueled, mobile agricultural equipment statewide, in addition to stationary equipment, and on-road vehicles used in agricultural operations." Despite enacting more stringent emissions standards for engines, the industry is a significant source of air pollution in the state.
Waiting for diesel-fueled equipment to turn over for replacement isn't a helpful emissions-reduction strategy, but what has helped, according to CARB, is making available a combination of local, state and federal funding plus private investment via grants, rebates and/or other incentive programs to ensure existing combustion-engine-powered agricultural tools are replaced with clean equipment. The agency's own FARMER program distributed $122 million statewide through the end of 2019 (see CEM No. 1599).
Agriculture is a significant industry in the five counties MBCP serves, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture 2018-2019 Agricultural Statistics Review, which is the latest data available from the state on the industry across its 58 counties. Of the state's $49.9 billion in sales for that period, the five counties' share was roughly $7.8 billion (see table). Three of the five counties are in the state's top 20 in terms of sales and most of the five grow one or more, if not all, of the state's top 20 commodities, which include grapes, strawberries, lettuce and broccoli.
"Supporting the agricultural sector through this grant program will be a great start for MBCP to begin to invest in electrifying our region's ever important industry," Norm Groot, chair of MBCP's Community Advisory Council and executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, said in a news release. "The agricultural industry continues to implement key strategies to reduce cost and meet environmental goals and MBCP is poised to be a strategic partner to help advance them."
MBCP serves roughly 400,000 residential, commercial and agricultural customers within portions of Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz counties, including the Central Coast cities of Carpinteria, Goleta, Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo.
The grant program went live July 27 at 1 p.m. Pacific time, according to MBCP. Applications will be accepted through Aug. 22.