Schiavone, D.1
1Extension Specialist, University of Maryland Extension, Keedysville, MD, 21756


While energy use remains a high economic, legislative and environmental priority in Maryland, over 500,000 Maryland households still face an unaffordable home energy burden while 15% of agricultural production costs are expended on energy use. A needs assessment was conducted to better understand the opportunities, benefits and barriers for implementing energy-related programming and outreach through the University of Maryland Extension (UME) to help farmers and residents reduce their energy use and minimize associated expenses. An online survey was first administered to all UME Educators and Specialists (n=98, 33%) in 2018 to assess the educational opportunities, perceived barriers and client-driven needs for programming associated with energy conservation and clean energy technology. Specific programming needs were further addressed and evaluated through in-service training delivered to 32 participants with impacts identified using follow-up evaluations issued after 24 hours (n=14) and 6 months (n=20).

Current UME engagements in energy conservation (16%) and clean energy technology (14%) were attributed to the growing number of questions received from the public associated with energy efficient landscaping (20%), economics (14%), heating (14%), solar PV (15%) and solar leasing (#10%). In-service evaluations further indicated intentions to help others implement energy measures (n=11; 32%), educate others (n=13; 46%), and incorporate energy into UME programming (n=9; 33%). While farmers represent the greatest portion of those clientele currently seeking energy-related information from UME (27%); interest from rural (26%) and urban (16%) residents is also growing. The greatest concerns for UME clientele were perceived to be the high investment costs (M=2.21), lack of financial resources (M=2.12), and lack of technological understanding (M=2.09); particularly considering that 42% of UME clientele were perceived to be ‘not at all informed’ on credible sources of energy information (M=0.65).

In-service training’ (M=2.48) was identified as the preferred method for disseminating energy-related information; with ‘technology demos and site visits’ (20%) and ‘workshops/seminars’ (n=11, 29%) as preferred programming formats. While energy-related expertise, training and programming may help to expand UME’s role and relevancy in addressing Maryland’s energy challenges, these programmatic priorities may have broader applications for Extension professionals delivering unbiased and research-based information throughout the US.

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