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Column: Brews benefit from clean energy

Jeff Sheehan and Seth Rivard

At Rockford Brewing Co., we take pride in the quality of our traditional and inventive — not to mention delicious — beer, much of which is made from ingredients sourced from local Michigan agriculture. We take equal pride that our beers are produced in the most energy efficient, environmentally friendly manner, and we are proud Michiganians.

That’s why we support Michigan moving ahead aggressively with renewable energy and energy-efficiency goals.

We have made a commitment to sustainability throughout our operations. With close to zero landfill waste, efficient LED lighting throughout the pub, and conservation of water and heat during every batch of beer through a heat exchanger into our Hot Liquor Tank, which is then used to brew the next batch, we are saving money and conserving resources. Our commitment to explore and implement additional sustainability practices will continue as Rockford Brewing Co. continues to grow.

Beer production is already being adversely impacted by climate change. For instance, extreme weather exacerbated by climate change — drought, flooding, higher temperatures, severe storms — is harming the production of hops and barley, critical ingredients of beer. Lower crop yields combined with rising demand have lead to an increase in the price of hops by more than 250 percent over the past decade. The availability of clean water — the basic ingredient that makes up 98 percent of beer —is essential to our business. The Great Lakes and the other freshwater resources are also impacted by a changing climate and unpredictable weather patterns. For all these reasons, beer brewers realize that working to reduce our own impacts and support broad climate action is fast becoming a significant part of our business model.

Brewing beer is an energy-intensive process, and when operating a microbrewery, every opportunity to save a dollar, while preserving great taste, needs to be considered. That’s why we support expanding clean energy policy in our home state of Michigan. Reducing energy waste is the cheapest form of energy — because it’s not spending any energy at all. In Michigan, energy efficiency costs under 2 cents per kilowatt hour — far cheaper than coal, natural gas, or nuclear power. Meanwhile, the cost of wind and solar has been plummeting in recent years.

In March, Gov. Rick Snyder announced his support for a 10-year clean energy plan with 30 to 40 percent of Michigan’s energy needs met through a combination of new renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts. We support expansion of clean energy policies because it will help create new jobs, increase investments, and establish a resilient electric grid. Recent analysis commissioned by the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum finds that a new 20 percent RES proposal would generate an additional $6 billion in economic activity and create 40,000 jobs. Cutting energy waste has also generated billions of dollars in savings for Michigan’s energy users, while simultaneously making our state more economically competitive.

We’re not the only brewery to integrate sustainability into our business practices in innovative ways and support these forward thinking policies. Rockford Brewing Co. has joined over 50 other brewers across the country in signing Ceres’ Brewery Climate Declaration. Breweries are finding economic opportunities through investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste recapture, and sustainable sourcing. We hope our collective efforts can continue to pave the way for clean energy policies around the country that benefit and support businesses like ours.

Jeff Sheehan and Seth Rivard are co-founders of Rockford Brewing Co.