- The U.S. Department of Agriculture will make $52 million in loans available to rural electric cooperatives through an energy program which aims to boost efficiency by offering low-interest loans for projects.
- Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) said the Rural Energy Savings Program is helping to create jobs and reduce energy waste. The lawmaker introduced the legislation to create RESP in 2010.
- Both current and former Rural Utilities Service borrowers can apply for the funds, as well as subsidiaries of current or former RUS borrowers, and entities that provide retail electric service in rural areas.
You've heard of a win-win? According to the lawmaker behind the program, a rural energy savings program targeting low-interest loans is even better than that.
“Energy efficiency renovations create good jobs in construction and American manufacturing and simultaneously cut down on wasted energy and save money for consumers,” Merkley said in a statement. “This is exactly the type of investment we should be making in rural communities. A true triple win.”
RESP borrowers finance loans at 0% interest for up to 20 years, making efficiency measures affordable. Energy customers participating in programs financed through RESP repay the loans at an interest rate of up to 3% for up to 10 years through their electric bills.
Merkley designed the program in a bipartisan partnership six years ago with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN). Congress authorized the program in the 2014 Farm Bill and funded the program through the Agriculture Appropriations bill in 2015 and 2016.
The federal government has billions available to assist rural utilities, Utility Dive reported this month.
A $6.25 billion federal fund offers low interest loans and guarantees to utilities looking to build rate-based infrastructure, though the projects have to meet the needs of underserved communities with populations of 20,000 or less.
“We have invested over $1.1 billion since 2009 in 26 renewable energy projects in rural America and we are now trying to drive more projects and energy efficiency,” Brandon McBride, administrator of the USDA's Rural Utilities Service, told Utility Dive.
RUS-funded energy efficiency programs are growing in popularity. The program's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program provides low interest loans that utilities can relend to business and residential customers at a 1% premium. Loans can be used to reduce peak demand, modify load, or increase the use of renewables.