WASHINGTON – The Biden Administration has announced the availability of nearly  $11 billion in grants and loan opportunities intended to help rural energy and utility providers bring affordable, reliable clean energy to their communities across the country. This represents the single largest investment in rural electrification since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act into law in 1936.

At a news conference announcing the package,  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture stands ready to partner with municipalities, tribal entities, entrepreneurs, rural electric cooperatives and other utilities to...create new economic growth and healthier communities.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be opening a Letter of Interest process for the Empowering Rural America (“New ERA”) program, which makes $9.7 billion available to eligible rural electric cooperatives to deploy renewable energy systems, zero-emission and carbon capture systems.Rural electric cooperatives, including current and previous USDA borrowers, are eligible for funding. To apply, eligible entities must submit a Letter of Interest between July 31 and Aug. 31, 2023.

USDA will also be opening a Letter of Interest process for the Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) program, which makes $1 billion available in partially forgivable loans to renewable-energy developers and electric service providers, including municipals, cooperatives, and investor-owned and Tribal utilities to help finance large-scale solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydropower projects and energy storage in support of renewable energy systems.For this program, USDA will begin accepting Letters of Interest starting on June 30, 2023, on a rolling basis until Sept. 29, 2023.

The stated goal of the PACE program is to make clean energy affordable for vulnerable, disadvantaged, Tribal and energy communities to heat their homes, run their businesses and power their cars, schools, hospitals and more. USDA may be able to leverage nearly $3 billion in projects through this program. This is in line with President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to ensure that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments reach disadvantaged communities that are marginalized and overburdened by pollution.

More From KSEN AM 1150