On July 31, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began accepting Letters of Intent (LOIs) to apply for funding through the New Empowering Rural America (New ERA) program. Established through the Inflation Reduction Act, this program aims to combat the climate crisis by financing energy projects from rural electric cooperatives. LOIs to apply for the New ERA program are due September 15, 2023.
The $9.7 billion New ERA program will allow rural electric cooperatives to improve energy efficiency to eligible generation and transmission systems, purchase, build or deploy renewable energy, zero-emission systems, carbon capture storage systems, or renewable energy. Funding is available to rural electric cooperatives through loans, grants, or a combination of both. The competitive grant component will fund up to 25% of the total cost of qualifying projects, and projects must be completed by September 30, 2031.
Following the LOI deadline, USDA will invite rural electric cooperatives with the highest scores to the 60-day full application process. A sample Letter of Interest (LOI) for the New ERA program can be found here.
In July, USDA announced that they accept LOIs from eligible entities, including all cooperatives and nonprofits, for the Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) program. Established through the Inflation Reduction Act, the PACE Program will provide financing through partially forgivable loans for renewable energy projects. LOIs for the PACE program are due on September 29, 2023. Learn more about the PACE program here.
The $11 billion investments through the PACE and New ERA programs present a unique opportunity for cooperatives to play an instrumental role in transforming rural America’s energy landscape while aligning with the nation’s sustainable development objectives.
To gain insight into the New ERA and PACE programs, stakeholders are encouraged to view a recorded webinar hosted by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and USDA Rural Utilities Service.
Interested cooperatives can email questions about the New ERA or PACE programs to RD.RUS.IRA.Questions@usda.gov.