WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA received record demand for funding to advance clean energy in rural America under the Inflation Reduction Act.
Passed last year by the then Democratic-controlled Congress on a party-line vote, the legislation is considered the “largest clean energy and climate investment in history and the largest investment ever in rural energy infrastructure,” according to a USDA press release.
Nearly $13 billion has been made available to support clean energy infrastructure for rural America through USDA Rural Development programs. The funding will help eligible entities build renewable energy and zero-emission systems and make energy-efficiency improvements that will “significantly increase affordability and reliability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the release stated.
The department has seen “record-breaking” demand from across the nation for the following programs:
Empowering Rural America (New ERA) Program
In May, USDA made $9.7 billion available under the New ERA program for member-owned rural electric cooperatives to help rural Americans benefit from “clean, affordable and reliable energy.” The press release said the funding “represents the largest increase in investment in rural America’s electric system since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act into law in 1936.”
The USDA received 157 proposals from nearly every state and Puerto Rico for more than 750 clean energy projects in rural communities. The proposals totaled more than two times the $9.7 billion in grant and loan funding that Congress made available for this program.
Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) Program
In May, USDA made $1 billion available under PACE to fund new clean energy projects and energy storage in rural America.
As of Sept. 27, the department received requests for more than $7.8 billion through letters of interest and expected to receive more letters of interest as it approached the Sept. 29 deadline.
Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
In Fiscal Year 2023, USDA has received requests for nearly $900 million in applications under REAP to help agricultural operations and rural small business owners build clean energy systems and make energy-efficient improvements. That is up from $75 million the previous fiscal year.
On Sept. 19, USDA announced that it has also seen substantially more interest than funding available under the Inflation Reduction Act in USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs to help farmers and ranchers implement expanded conservation practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon storage.