USDA’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program

What is the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program? And how much money is available through the program?

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program (EECLP) is a new loan program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS). Prior to the implementation of the EECLP, there had not been a USDA loan program dedicated to supporting energy efficiency programs and improvements.

The stated goals of the EECLP are as follows:

  1. Increasing energy efficiency at the end user level
  2. Modifying electricity load such that there is a reduction in overall system demand
  3. Effecting a more efficient use of existing electric distribution, transmission and generating facilities
  4. Attracting new businesses and creating jobs in rural communities by investing in energy efficiency
  5. Encouraging the use of renewable energy fuels for either Demand Side Management or the reduction of conventional fossil fuel use within the service territory

For Fiscal Year 2014 — the first year for the program — USDA’s Rural Utility Service has authorized $250 million in funding for the EECLP. However, RUS expects funding levels to increase over the life of the program. Further, it is anticipated that RUS will approve 20 loans in the first year. Applications may be submitted beginning February 2014.

Through the EECLP program, the Rural Utility Service makes direct loans to electric cooperatives (“coops”) and other rural electricity providers. The electricity provider can re-loan the funds to their residential and commercial customers in order for those customers to make energy efficiency improvements. Under some programs, known as on-bill financing, the customer would then repay the loan through their monthly electric bill.

Eligible activities directly benefitting residential customers that may be funded through the EECLP include, but are not limited to:

  1. Energy efficiency measures implemented on the premise (property) of an electricity customer
  2. Energy audits of a residence
  3. Consumer education and outreach programs
  4. On- and off-grid renewable energy systems.

What are the benefits of the EECLP?

There are many benefits to increasing the efficiency of energy use and to any program that helps fund improvements in energy efficiency. Environmentally, energy efficiency results in reductions in greenhouse gases and other pollutants associated with electricity production.

Economically, the benefits include:

  1. Reduced electricity costs for residents and businesses, which results in more money being made available for spending in local communities
  2. Greater demand for local energy services, and therefore local jobs, including home weatherization, duct repair, insulation and appliance repairs and upgrades, among others
  3. The attraction of new businesses to rural communities

More specifically, the EECLP helps provide funding that both electric coops and their customers need in order to fund energy efficiency at the customer level. In many cases, neither the coop or the customer has the money necessary to pay for significant efficiency improvements. The EECLP offers the potential to remove that upfront barrier.

As a residential customer, how can I make sure my coop (or other rural electricity provider) takes advantage of the EECLP and helps me reduce my energy costs?

While some electric coops have been eagerly awaiting the release of the EECLP in order to enhance or create energy efficiency programs that they can offer to their customers, other coops may not even be considering applying for an EECLP loan. The best thing you can do as a customer — and as a partial owner of your coop — is to contact your coop and express your desire for a home energy efficiency loan program. Mention the EECLP as a possible source of funding your coop can use to develop a comprehensive home energy loan program. Also tell your neighbors and others in your community to do the same.

To help you in this, Appalachian Voices has developed an Energy Savings Action Center, which is an online tool that you can use to learn about any energy efficiency programs or incentives your coop currently offers, and to contact your coop to request a home energy efficiency loan program. [Visit the energy Savings Action Center ]

Review the full details of the EECLP here.