By Karen Stokes
In a significant move to address the climate crisis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled a substantial investment of nearly $11 billion on Tuesday, aimed at facilitating the adoption of affordable clean energy in rural communities across the nation. This funding is made possible through two programs established under President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, marking the largest-ever national investment in combating climate change.
The Empowering Rural America (New ERA) program, part of this comprehensive initiative, will provide eligible rural electric cooperatives with access to a substantial $9.7 billion fund. Through this program, these cooperatives will be able to deploy renewable energy systems, zero-emission technologies, and carbon capture systems, thereby advancing the development of sustainable energy sources in rural areas.
Additionally, the Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) program will make available $1 billion in partially-forgivable loans for renewable energy companies and electric utilities. These funds will be instrumental in financing renewable energy projects, including large-scale solar, wind, and geothermal initiatives.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressed the significance of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to cleaner energy, emphasizing the benefits it brings to rural communities.
“The Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to cleaner energy provides rural communities with an affordable and reliable power grid, while supporting thousands of new jobs and helping lower energy costs in the future. These investments will also combat climate change and significantly reduce air and water pollution that put children’s health at risk. The U.S. Department of Agriculture stands ready to partner with municipalities, tribal entities, entrepreneurs, rural electric cooperatives and other utilities to see this transformative investment come to life and create new economic growth and healthier communities.”
This groundbreaking announcement is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to grow the American economy from the bottom up and the middle out by rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. By driving more than $435 billion in private-sector manufacturing investments, creating good-paying jobs, and building a clean-energy economy to tackle the climate crisis while fostering resilience in our communities.
This represents the single largest investment in rural electrification since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act into law in 1936.