The NSW Farmers' Energy Innovation Plan Tool

[Click here to download a PDF version of this information paper]

The farm energy planning calculator is a decision support tool designed to assist farmers and their advisors in identifying, prioritising and implementing energy-saving solutions. It serves several functions, starting with basic energy data management and ending with the generation of content for a farm energy plan. While the calculator can be used in isolation, it is designed to support the broader farm energy planning process developed by NSW Farmers.

How can I access the tool?

The energy planning calculator tool is available free of charge and requires a computer capable of opening Excel files. It can be downloaded by clicking here.

Tip: Gather relevant information beforehand

Before diving into the tool, try to obtain as much of the following information as possible:

  • a list of the equipment used on the farm, preferably with a log of on-farm fuel/electricity use for the past year;

  • your electricity bills or other record of on-farm electricity use for the past year;

  • your bills for natural gas or other record of on-farm gas use for the past year;

  • logs of fuels purchased/used for the past year (e.g. LPG, petrol, diesel); and

  • a list of measures implemented already (e.g. installed solar panels, installed variable speed drives on fans).

What does the tool do?

The tool supports you making key steps in the farm energy planning process and is designed to work hand in hand with the farm energy planning template document available by clicking here.
For background information on the farm energy planning process, refer to the Energy Planning Information Paper.

The key steps outlined are:
•    logging and analysing on-farm energy data;
•    identifying and prioritising opportunities;
•    evaluating selected measures (return on investment);
•    preparing quotation templates for suppliers,;
•    refining your analysis on the basis of data gathered from suppliers,;
•    generating tables and other content for your farm energy plan document; and
•    tracking outcomes.

Limits of the energy planning calculator tool

The tool provides decision-making support only and is not intended to make decisions for you or to generate absolute answers. Your preferences and judgements are critical inputs into the broader energy planning process. In addition, energy planning has to occur in the broader context of the farm. The tool can assist with return on investment around specific energy measures, but results will still need to be analysed in the context of your broader farm planning and business strategy.

Logging and analysing energy data

The first step outlined in the tool is logging information on your business-wide energy consumption and expenditure (as well as contextual information on the operation of your farm).
Auditing energy use is an essential first step in farm energy planning. The tool is structured so as to guide farmers (and their audit contractors) in collecting the data needed to analyse farm energy use. This enables subsequent analytical and planning steps and provides a convenient energy record-keeping system. Whether you hire a professional energy auditor or conduct a basic audit yourself, the tool provides a structure by which you can organise your energy data.

Identifying and prioritising opportunities

The tool uses your inputted data to suggest likely feasible opportunities for your farm.

Evaluating selected measures

The second part of the tool allows you to refine your estimates of the costs and savings, calculated in Part 1, with estimates that are more specific to your business.

Quotation templates for suppliers

The tool includes basic quotation templates to help you obtain pricing information from suppliers. This is useful in determining the real cost of implementing any suggested solution. You can then reprioritise the opportunities and select those you intend to implement.

Transfer to energy plan document

Planning tables are provided at the end of Part 2 to help you with the implementation of opportunities and to track consequent energy reductions.

In addition, the results and solutions presented by the tool are tailored for easy insertion into the Farm Energy Plan template document (Refer to supplementary paper, Farm energy planning: Overview).

How do I use the tool?

A full instructional walkthrough video on how to use the tool is available through the following link:http://youtu.be/PoCQ4lvlC5I

Alternatively, you may prefer to follow the steps provided below to become familiarised with it.

1. Read the disclaimer and instructions

Open the tool and begin by reading the disclaimer and user instructions. These provide valuable information about the workings and purpose of the tool. The tool also contains explanatory text as well as visual cues, as shown in the following table:

 Colour coding of cells
Table 1: Colour coding of cells
 

2. Enter your farm’s details and usage data

Click on the ‘Registration’ tab and follow the instructions to provide the details for your farm and its energy use.

Since many farm businesses involve several properties, the tool allows you to provide details for up to three operations (Farm 1, Farm 2 and Farm 3). This is why there are separate tabs for entering additional information for each one (i.e. ‘Part 1 F1’, ‘Part 1 F2’ and ‘Part 1 F3’).

 Example data entered under the Registration tab for a hypothetical farm producing apples, beef and pork.
Figure 1: Example data entered under the Registration tab for a hypothetical farm producing apples, beef and pork.
 

3. Log equipment being used on your farm

Use the ‘Equipment register’ tab to provide a log of the tractors, machinery, heaters, lights, appliances and any other energy-using equipment that contributes to your farm’s energy use. An example is shown below:

 Example equipment register.

Figure 2: Example equipment register.

 

Be sure to scroll down and check that the equipment’s combined energy use is reasonably close to that of the energy consumption you’ve logged for the whole farm under the Registration tab. Otherwise you may receive an error message (such as that shown in Figure 3).

 Example in which energy use information from the equipment register does not match the information entered in the main registration page (for the whole farm).
Figure 3: Example in which energy use information from the equipment register does not match the information entered in the main registration page (for the whole farm).
 

4. Select equipment types and specific areas to investigate

Move on to the tabs ‘Part 1 F1’, ‘Part 1 F2’ and ‘Part 1 F3’ to select up to four equipment types for investigation.

Subsequently, tick the practices you have already implemented in relation to each equipment type:

 Example selection of energy-saving measures that have been implemented already.
Figure 5: Example selection of energy-saving measures that have been implemented already.
 

 Then, pick the measures you would like to investigate further:

 Example selection of measures to investigate further.
Figure 6: Example selection of measures to investigate further. Measures that provide significant reductions in energy use for little to no financial outlay are deemed ‘quick wins’ (QW) and selected automatically.
 

 After this, the tool will provide you with some preliminary rule-of-thumb-based costing and savings estimates for each measure (see Figure 7, below).

 Example preliminary calculated savings form energy efficiency measures
Figure 7: Example preliminary calculated savings form energy efficiency measures
 

 Be sure to scroll down and complete the selection of measures for all the equipment types that you are investigating. Also, be sure to complete all the tabs if they apply (e.g. ‘Part 1 F1’, ‘Part 1 F2’ and ‘Part 1 F3’).

5. Estimate the viability of whole-business opportunities (e.g. solar PV, wind power, biogas systems)

After completing tabs ‘Part 1 F1’, ‘Part 1 F2’ and ‘Part 1 F3’, visit the tab ‘Part 1 Whole Bus Opps’ and complete the details that are requested. This section will help identify whether some renewable energy technologies are appropriate solutions for your farm and will produce some preliminary numbers regarding the expected savings they could entail.

6. Revise the opportunities and estimated savings presented

After appropriately completing the tab ‘Part 1 Whole Bus Opps’ and other required tabs before it, the tab ‘Part 1 All Opps’ should be populated with a list of suggested measures to implement for your farm and their expected energy savings (based on industry rules-of-thumb). An example of this is shown in the figure below.

7. Prioritise and select opportunities to pursue

Visit the tab ‘Part 1 Prioritise & Select Opps’. The first section permits you to enter the cost thresholds that your business considers to be ‘low’, ‘medium’ and ‘high’. This is an optional requirement, so if you leave this section blank, the Excel tool will invoke its own default thresholds.

Scroll down to continue to the prioritisation matrix...

The prioritisation matrix

This matrix plots various energy-saving measures that can be implemented, based on two parameters:

  • the level of energy reduction that they’ll achieve; and
  • the financial up-front cost of their implementation.

Plotting energy-efficiency measures in this way allows farmers to identify quickly which measures they should pursue as high priorities, which should be implemented as strategic, medium- to long-term goals, and which should be abandoned for the time being (possibly to consider in the future when they may be more attractive financially). Figure 9 illustrates the prioritisation matrix and according regions.

 Prioritisation matrix.
Figure 9: Prioritisation matrix.
 

 Scroll down the menu under this tab and, with the help of the prioritisation matrix in the tool, select up to 10 measures to pursue this year, next year and in two years’ time.

 Example selection of measures to pursue, based on the prioritisation matrix.
Figure 10: Example selection of measures to pursue, based on the prioritisation matrix.
 

 This will help you to put a plan of implementation together.

8. Review the preliminary energy innovation plan, and fill in the details and action steps for selected projects

Continue to the ‘Part 1 Report’ tab. This tab will show you a rough skeleton of the energy plan but will be based on the tools’ default rules-of-thumb to estimate the expected savings from any measure.
You have the option to populate some details about your business in this tab (e.g. overview of business activities, production volumes, and current income flows), but these are for your own benefit and the final energy plan will not hinge on them being filled out.
It is important, however, that you scroll down and complete the table at the bottom in which you outline, for each project:
 
  • target implementation start and end dates;
  • any implementation partners that apply (e.g. consultants, suppliers and installers of equipment);
  • a list of actions to follow up to ensure the successful implementation of the project; and
  • any other considerations.
 Example details filled out for a new PV system project.
Figure 11: Example details filled out for a new PV system project.
 

9. Substitute rule-of-thumb measures with more accurate information

If you have more accurate cost and savings estimates for certain energy efficiency measures than what the tool has provided, you can go to the ‘Part 2 Firm up costs and saving’ tab and substitute any default calculations. Simply provide your own estimate of savings or costs in the adjacent green columns (see Figure 12) and the tool will use the custom estimate for that entry automatically.

 Use your own estimates by populating the green columns under the 'Part 2 Firm up costs and saving' tab.
Figure 12: Use your own estimates by populating the green columns under the 'Part 2 Firm up costs and saving' tab.
 

 This tab will also allow you to:

  • substitute default electricity rates;
  • add financial co-benefits to the implementation of projects; and
  • establish the discount rate to evaluate the net present value (NPV) of any opportunity.

At the bottom of this tab you should find a refined estimate of the energy-efficiency opportunities available to you, based on any modifications to the rules of thumb and default values you may have made. You should review this table and ensure that it is reasonable and without errors.

10. Create quotation templates

Move on to the ‘Part 2 Required quote info’ tab. Under this tab, you will find a large table that includes some default quote information for the projects you’ve selected.

Relevant purchasing considerations will also self-populate, as seen in Figure 13. We recommend that you revise these before approaching suppliers and/or evaluating quotes.

 Example purchasing considerations for voltage optimisation systems.
Figure 13: Example purchasing considerations for voltage optimisation systems.
 

 Fill in the additional details that are needed in this table to produce a quote of the products or information required to complete your selected energy-efficiency projects. The figure below shows an example of the details filled in for a voltage optimisation project.

 Example details, filled out to produce a quote for a voltage optimisation system.
Figure 14: Example details, filled out to produce a quote for a voltage optimisation system.
 

11. Print out quotation templates and obtain more accurate information from suppliers

Once you have filled in the details for all your projects, open the ‘Part 2 Quotation template’ tab.

Use the dropdown menu located at the top of the sheet (next to ‘Which project do you want a quote for?’) to select the quote details to populate. Then complete the final supplier details: company name, contact name, email address and so on. You may add any additional comments pertaining to this quote at the bottom. An example of a filled-in quote for a voltage optimisation system is shown in the following table.

 Example quote produced to obtain prices and information about a voltage optimisation system
Table 2: Example quote produced to obtain prices and information about a voltage optimisation system.
 

 You can now export (e.g. save as a PDF document) or print the finalised quote to send to prospective suppliers.

12. Revisit step 9 if required

Once you have contacted all relevant candidate partners and suppliers, you will have the opportunity to analyse real prices, costs and quoted savings, using the quotes these partners and suppliers have returned.

At this point you should revisit stage 9 of this guide and open the ‘Part 2 Firm up costs and saving’ tab. If possible, substitute any expected costs or savings with the more realistic figures provided by suppliers, partners and/or a consulting service.

This step is a pivotal part of the process, enabling you to continually improve the accuracy and relevancy of your energy innovation plan. This will, in turn, allow you to make better decisions about which projects and efficiency measures to pursue in what order.

13. Select final list of efficiency measures to pursue immediately

Once you have populated the ‘Part 2 Firm up costs and saving’ tab with your final costs and savings information, proceed to the ‘Part 2 Prioritise & Select’ tab.

  • Evaluate the position of all candidate energy-efficiency projects in the final prioritisation matrix.
  • And finally, select the ones you intend to implement this year by ticking the boxes accordingly (as in the figure below).
 Conduct your final evaluation of the prioritisation matrix, then select the projects you intend to implement this year.
Figure 15: Conduct your final evaluation of the prioritisation matrix, then select the projects you intend to implement this year.
 

 

14. Complete a revised energy innovation plan

You are nearly done!
Visit the ‘Part 2 Energy Innovation Plan’ section. Your business details should show up here, as they were inputted in the previous steps (if they don’t, go back to the ‘Part 1 Report’ tab and fill in the details there, as described in step 8).
Here, you are given the chance to re-input other production details (such as production volume, incomes and machinery costs) as typically, your estimates of these will have improved after further analysis.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page and fill in the table with details for each of the projects you’ve selected for implementation over the coming year. (See Step 8: Review the preliminary energy innovation plan, and fill in the details and action steps for selected projects for an example of what kind of information to provide).

Ideally, you should revisit this table at the end of the year and record the following information:

 Try to revisit the table at the end of the year to fill in information that will allow you evaluate the effectiveness of the energy-saving project.
Figure 16: Try to revisit the table at the end of the year to fill in information that will allow you evaluate the effectiveness of the energy-saving project.
 

15. Use the information to populate the farm energy plan template

The Excel tool works in conjunction with the farm energy plan template. Use the outcomes and savings, as produced under the ‘Part 2 Energy Innovation Plan’ tab, to provide the information required in the Word template available here.

It is important that you complete this step as it will provide a concrete and readable plan, and a list of actions that can be referenced by farm managers and staff.

Further information

The technology and measures covered in the calculator are described and discussed in the suite of information papers that has been produced as part of the Farm Energy Innovation Program. Refer to the available related resources and other information papers available in the Energy theme of the this portal (AgInnovators)

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