NRECA is encouraging electric cooperatives to act soon to take advantage of nearly $11 billion in federal funding to help utilities build or buy clean energy.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for interested electric co-ops to leverage an unprecedented amount of federal funding for a wide range of clean energy projects," said NRECA Regulatory Affairs Director Luke Theriot.
The $9.7 billion New Empowering Rural America (New ERA) program will accept letters of interest from electric co-ops through its online portal from July 31 to Sept. 15. The portal for the Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) program, with $1 billion in loan authority, opened July 10 and runs through Sept. 29.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service will consider these brief letters 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.
New 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.
PACE 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.
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.
Theriot recently co-hosted a webinar on New Era and PACE with RUS Administrator Andy Berke, RUS Assistant Administrator Chris McLean and USDA Senior Energy Counselor Clare Sierawski. They explained the rules and timetable for the programs and took questions from leaders of co-ops and other utilities.
“NRECA encourages electric co-ops to utilize these resources to assist their pursuit of this historic federal funding opportunity," Theriot said.
Visit NRECA's IRA Funding Opportunities section on cooperative.com for more resources on these programs.