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Summit highlights role of Extension in energy future

May 6, 2013

First-ever event of its kind brings partners from across the country to share ideas, strategies and best practices on CSU campus.

As the last snow storm of April covered the Colorado State University campus with much-needed moisture for local farmers, about 70 experts explored the role of agriculturally focused extension services in meeting the nation’s current energy challenges.

The National Extension Energy Summit, offered for the first time on April 30-May 1 (with an opening reception the evening of April 29) was hosted by Extension partners from CSU, Montana State University, University of Wyoming and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities. Ron Sega, Vice President and Enterprise Executive for Energy and the Environment at CSU and Ohio State University, kicked off the Summit by framing Extension’s role in meeting national energy challenges.

Speakers from agencies ranging from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the National Renewable Energy Lab connected the dots between some of the cutting-edge energy research under way at the nation’s land-grant universities and the important role Extension has in bringing that research to local producers as well as consumers.

Representatives from 28 states

Representatives of university Extension services in 28 states, from Louisiana to Alaska, discussed the broad topics of energy literacy for both agricultural producers and general consumers; commercialization of university-based research; regional energy development; workforce development in the energy economy; and national energy policy and how university extension services can further energy partnerships. They wrapped up the summit with a planning session on ways to take information to action in the near and long term.

The first day’s keynote speaker, Beverly Samuel, National Program Leader for Housing and Community Living at the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture set the tone for the discussion when she spoke of how energy connects the public and private sectors at all levels — federal, state and local. She then led a panel featuring LeAnn Oliver of the DoE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy about existing partnerships already in place in several states and how they are shaped by regional differences in resources and governmental policies.

Throughout the summit, attendees shared best practices and what has worked in their states as well as programs about to launch and some of the challenges facing  them and their constituents.

Doubling energy productivity

Bob Hawsey, Associate Director for Renewable Electricity and End-Use Systems at NREL and the second-day keynote, talked about the concepts and technologies that can help double the nation’s energy productivity by 2030 – an ambitious goal that land-grant universities and their Extension mission are in a unique position to help become a reality.

In addition to the sessions in Lory Student Center, participants also had the opportunity to tour CSU’s Engines and Energy Conversion Lab and see some of the work being done there on engine emissions and efficiency, advance biofuels, energy for the developing world and renewable and distributed power.

This first National Extension Energy Summit not only provided a wealth of knowledge to those involved but also provided Extension partners the opportunity to begin and foster collaborative opportunities among land-grant universities and national colleagues. Planning is under way for future Summits to continue the discussion.

Contact: Kate Jeracki