RUS Administrators Share Insights on ERA, PACE Programs

Indiana electric cooperative leaders met July 20 with USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Administrator Andy Berke and Assistant Administrator Chris McLean to discuss the Empowering Rural America (ERA) and Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) programs. During the meeting, they shared insights into the programs, including what a successful application looks like, what project types are acceptable, what timelines will look like, and more.

The $9.7 billion ERA is dedicated solely to electric co-ops and offers grants and loans to support voluntary deployment of clean energy projects while advancing long-term resiliency, reliability and affordability for rural electric systems. It will award funds on a competitive basis to cover 25% of the cost of a qualifying project completed by Sept. 30, 2031. The program is accepting letters of interest from electric co-ops through its online portal through Sept. 15.

The PACE program offers financial assistance for renewable energy production from electric service providers, including co-ops, for-profits, municipals and tribal and investor-owned utilities. Loans ranging from $1 million to $100 million will be awarded on a rolling basis. Loan forgiveness under PACE will range from 20% to 60% depending on the population served by the renewable energy. Those consumers can be in rural, distressed, disadvantaged or designated energy communities and tribal areas or U.S. territories. The PACE portal, with $1 billion in loan authority, is open through Sept. 29.

The RUS will consider these brief letters of intent and invite worthy applicants to proceed to a 60-day full application process. Both programs, created by the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, have a similar two-step process.

Eligible projects under either program may include large-scale solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydropower, energy storage in support of renewable energy systems and carbon capture and sequestration. Any project that began construction prior to the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act on Aug. 16, 2022, will not be eligible.