USDA Releases Funding Rules for $9.7 Billion Co-op Energy Innovation Program

The USDA last week published in the Federal Register a notice for a new program designed to help cooperatives with clean energy initiatives. The Empowering Rural America Program makes $9.7 billion available for electric cooperatives to create renewable energy, zero-emission and carbon capture systems.

Cooperatives have from July 31 through Aug. 31 to submit a letter of interest and start applying for funding. Eligible projects include renewable energy, carbon capture, energy storage, nuclear power, and generation and transmission efficiency improvements. Electric cooperatives are eligible for grants up to 25% of the total cost of a project. A maximum of $970 million can go to a single cooperative.

The first funding awards will be announced at the end of 2023.

“We applaud the USDA for structuring the Empowering Rural America Program in a manner that helps electric cooperatives leverage new tools to reduce costs and keep energy affordable while meeting the future energy needs of our communities,” said John Cassady, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives.  We are eager to learn more about the many unique ways our 38 member electric cooperatives can use the new program to support the energy needs of Hoosiers.”

Electric cooperatives helped shape the program, which was passed by Congress through the Inflation Reduction Act. It is designed specifically for electric cooperatives interested in purchasing or building new clean energy systems. The program is administered by the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service.

Additional details about the Empowering Rural American Program can be found on the USDA’s website.

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