$11 Billion Federal Investment Announced to Bring Clean Energy to U.S. Rural Areas
The Biden-Harris Administration has unveiled a landmark initiative to promote rural electrification and advance clean energy deployment in communities across the United States. With the availability of nearly $11 billion in grants and loan opportunities, the investment represents the largest commitment to rural electrification since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act into law in 1936.
The Rural Electrification Act of 1936 was a pioneering legislation that provided loans to rural electric cooperatives, enabling them to bring electricity to underserved areas. Rural areas were underserved by private utility companies due to the high costs of electrification.
Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack emphasized the Administration’s commitment toward clean energy and the transformative impact it will have on rural communities, adding that the investment would provide affordable and reliable power grids while fostering job creation, reducing energy costs, combating climate change, and significantly curbing air and water pollution that threatens children’s health.
The funding is made available through two programs established under President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which represents the nation’s most significant commitment to combating the climate crisis. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will initiate a Letter of Interest process for the Empowering Rural America (“New ERA”) program, which allocates $9.7 billion to eligible rural electric cooperatives for the deployment of renewable energy systems, zero-emission technologies, and carbon capture systems. For the second process, the USDA will open a Letter of Interest process for the Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) program, providing $1 billion in partially forgivable loans to renewable-energy developers and electric service providers, including municipalities, cooperatives, investor-owned utilities, and Tribal utilities. This financing aims to support large-scale solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydropower projects, and energy storage to enhance renewable energy systems.
John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation, expressed the administration’s commitment to rural America and the transformative potential of the funding. Podesta highlighted that this investment aligns with the Investing in America Agenda, emphasizing the objective of building a clean energy economy that benefits all citizens.
This announcement is a key component of President Biden’s broader Investing in America agenda, which aims to bolster the American economy, rebuild infrastructure, attract private-sector manufacturing investments totaling over $435 billion, create high-paying jobs, and establish a resilient and clean-energy-driven economy to combat the climate crisis.
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