FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 16, 2023
Dan Radmacher, Media Specialist, (540) 798-6683, firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. — At the White House today, the Biden administration announced the single largest investment in rural electrification since the 1936 Rural Electrification Act — $11 billion in grant and loan opportunities to help rural communities access clean, reliable, affordable electricity. Representatives from placed-based organizations in the Rural Power Coalition, who advocated for the passage of these programs, were present and spoke on a panel during the launch.
This tremendous investment, secured through last year’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, will support thousands of new jobs, lower energy costs for consumers and lead to reductions in air pollution and climate emissions. The funding will be distributed through two programs: Empowering Rural America program, also known as the New ERA program, and the Powering Affordable Clean Energy program, also known as the PACE program.
The New ERA program makes $9.7 billion available to rural electric cooperatives to deploy renewable energy, zero-emission and carbon capture systems. Additionally, distributed systems, such as microgrids, and transmission improvements that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring reliability in rural or remote areas are eligible for New ERA funding. The PACE program makes $1 billion available in partially forgivable loans to renewable-energy developers and electric service providers for wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, biomass and renewable energy storage projects.
“Co-ops and the communities that they serve continue to face challenges, however, not only do co-ops have higher costs and lower profit margins, but many co-ops have significant debt from aging coal infrastructure that further increases costs to their members,” said Sara Kendall of the Western Organization of Resource Councils, a member of the Rural Power Coalition. “One of our coalition partners in Kentucky, pays $36 a month on debt service alone.”
This historic investment in rural America was won by the years-long advocacy of rural advocates from across the country representing the interests of rural residents and rural communities. Starting in 2017, members of the Rural Power Coalition began responding to the needs of their communities in the clean energy transition. Based in grassroots democracy and movement-led research, the Rural Power Coalition changed the federal conversation on the future of the clean energy transition in rural America with policy solutions led and informed by rural people.
“These new opportunities can have a tremendous impact in rural America by reducing energy bills and creating jobs while improving air quality,” said Brianna Knisley, Tennessee Campaign Manager for Appalachian Voices, a member of the Rural Power Coalition. “Rural electric cooperatives should submit their letter of inquiry in August to make sure their member-owners can access these benefits!”
“We mark when rural electrification started, we mark that on our calendar,” said Mike Partin, recently elected secretary-treasurer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and CEO of Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative. “That’s a big day for us. We celebrate that. And I think that’s where we’re seeing today, a point where we’re going to celebrate. It’s going to be marked on the calendar.”
Utilities and eligible entities who wish to apply for the PACE and New ERA programs will be required to submit a low-barrier Letter of Inquiry to the USDA. The agency will accept LOIs for PACE from June 30 to September 29, while LOIs for New ERA will be accepted from July 31 through August 31, 2023.
Members of electric cooperatives are invited to learn more about the New ERA and PACE programs, including how to ensure their utility takes advantage of these opportunities, by attending an upcoming webinar on Wednesday, June 7, at 6:30 pm ET. This info session is hosted by Appalachian Voices, a member of the Rural Power Coalition. Register at: bit.ly/IRA-webinar
The Rural Utilities Service is holding webinars with more information about these programs on May 17, 2:30-3:30 p.m. ET, and also May 22, 24, 31 and June 1, 2:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET. Register at: https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/electric-programs/powering-affordable-clean-energy-pace-program#events
View a recording of the U.S. Department of Agriculture announcement.
About Rural Electric Cooperatives. Rural Electric Cooperatives provide electricity to more than 42 million Americans across 56% of the United States’ landmass. They provide electricity to more than 90% of the persistent poverty counties in the United States, including communities of color in the Southern Black Belt, the Mississippi Delta, the borderlands along the U.S.-Mexico border, and Native American nations across the country.
About the Rural Power Coalition. The RPC is a group of place-based organizations representing rural electric cooperative member-owners from the five dirtiest electric co-ops in the United States. The RPC sees a future for electric cooperatives that is grounded in justice, democracy, and resilience. To achieve this vision, the RPC has put forth a bold, yet common sense proposal to help all rural electric cooperatives make this transition and build a clean energy system for every resident in their service areas.