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Rural Energy Programs Up for Renewal: Reauthorization with Mandatory Funding Needed

The current Farm Bill extension expires September 30, and funding for most programs in the 2008 Farm Bill Energy Title ran out long ago – but not all. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced funding for hundreds of new projects across the country to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). New reports document the importance of energy efficiency programs for rural homes and businesses. Will Congress reauthorize and fund sensible, successful, effective, win-win programs like these?
REAP provides grants and loan guarantees to rural businesses for eligible energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Grants may fund up to 25 percent of project costs. Types of projects include feasibility studies, energy audits, energy efficiency improvements, renewable biomass, anaerobic digesters, geothermal for electric generation, geothermal for direct use, hydroelectric (30 megawatts or less), hydrogen, small and large wind, small and large solar, and ocean (including tidal, wave, current, and thermal).
These types of projects can be a win-win for creating rural jobs and income; reducing energy costs and advancing rural energy security; reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and improving environmental quality. They are also wise public investments that leverage much larger investments from other private or public sources. In August, the USDA announced the award of $21 million for 631 projects across 42 states. Since 2009, REAP has invested in more than 7000 projects across the country. More…