Biden unveils ambitious rural energy initiative

Officials compare effort to New Deal Rural Electrification Act.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

May 16, 2023

2 Min Read
Biden unveils ambitious rural energy initiative

The Biden administration will invest $11 billion toward rural clean energy through two new programs announced Tuesday. They will be funded by the Inflation Reduction Act. Administration officials say the new initiatives are the largest investment in rural electrification since President Franklin Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Act of 1936.

“This new funding from the Inflation Reduction Act shows that President Biden, and our entire administration, is serious about investing in rural America,” Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation John Podesta said. “This announcement embodies what the Investing in America Agenda is all about—building a clean energy economy that works for everyone.”

Both programs will be managed by USDA. The Empowering Rural America program, dubbed the “New ERA,” will allocate $9.7 billion for rural electric cooperatives to fund renewable energy systems, zero-emission and carbon capture systems. Eligible entities may submit letters of interest between July 31 and Aug. 31.

The Powering Affordable Clean Energy program, commonly referred to as the PACE Program, aims to make clean energy more affordable to vulnerable, disadvantaged and tribal communities. It will provide $1 billion in partially forgivable loans for renewable energy developers and electrical service providers to help finance large-scale projects. USDA will accept letters of interest between June 30 and Sept. 29.

“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,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “These investments will also combat climate change and significantly reduce air and water pollution that put children’s health at risk.”

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member David Scott, R-Ga., says he was adamant that last year’s Inflation Reduction Act included funding for rural clean energy projects. Following the PACE and New ERA announcement, he thanked Biden and Vilsack for their commitment to rural communities and ensuring funding gets to the people and businesses that need it.

“By making $11 billion in federal funding available to rural electric cooperatives and other power providers that have invested in clean energy production and storage, the Biden-Harris Administration is keeping its word to help lower energy costs in rural communities and transition to renewable energy sources,” Scott said.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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