Sen. Michael Bennet helped electric cooperatives win a historic victory in 2022 with his support of direct-pay incentives for co-ops to deploy new energy technologies.

The incentives, passed by Congress as part of the sweeping Inflation Reduction Act, provide direct federal payments to co-ops for things like carbon capture projects, nuclear energy, battery energy storage systems and renewables. It gives co-ops parity with for-profit utilities, which have long enjoyed tax credits to develop clean energy projects.

Bennet helped craft the IRA while serving as chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources and Infrastructure. He pushed to ensure that electric co-ops have full access to clean energy tax credits. The bill also created a voluntary $9.7 billion grant and loan program designed specifically for electric co-ops that buy or build new clean energy systems.

“Senator Bennet is a strong ally for cooperatives like Tri-State that are making the clean energy transition,” says Duane Highley, CEO of Denver-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which worked closely with Bennet on the provisions that affect co-ops. “Tri-State appreciates the senator’s engagement with cooperatives and his leadership in Colorado and the U.S. Senate. These provisions help co-ops manage the costs of the energy transition, reduce emissions and keep power affordable for rural consumers.”

Bennet says co-ops are crucial to a successful transition to cleaner energy.

“Electric cooperatives have a long history of bringing power to our country’s rural communities,” Bennet says. “Today, they have another important role in our transition to a clean energy economy—cutting greenhouse gas emissions, growing local economies and lowering energy costs for rural Coloradans.

“That’s why I’ve consistently fought to expand support for rural electric cooperatives and public power companies, including in the Inflation Reduction Act, which allows them to access clean energy tax credits for the first time. As rural communities face energy costs and climate-fueled disasters like wild re and drought, we have no time to waste in investing in our co-ops and ensuring they have the tools to deliver clean, affordable energy.”

Colorado co-op leaders say the Inflation Reduction Act is just one example of how Bennet has helped electric co-ops and their consumer-members.

“Senator Bennet has been a true champion of the electric co-op program for many years,” says Kent Singer, executive director of the Colorado Rural Electric Association. “He’s done this through his support of various legislative initiatives as well as his frequent meetings with Colorado co-op folks.”

The Democratic senator has also been a longtime supporter of the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service electric loan program, which makes insured loans and loan guarantees to electric co-ops and other utilities. The funds help finance the construction of electric distribution facilities in rural areas.

“This support has been critical to many Colorado electric co-ops,” Singer says.

Bennet has made it a priority to get to know Colorado’s electric co-ops and the issues that are important to their members, Singer says.

“Senator Bennet has always taken the time to meet with our delegation during the NRECA Legislative Conference as well as with our Youth Tour kids when they visit the U.S. Capitol in the summer,” he says. “We’re very grateful for Senator Bennet’s continuing support of the electric co-op program and rural Colorado.”

In addition to his work on the Senate Finance Committee, Bennet helps craft legislation for rural America as a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. He serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry and Natural Resources.