grant program will help energy development in rural communities | Opinion

A new federal program provides grants to rural communities to develop community renewable energy projects.

The Rural Energy Pilot Program, launched by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), will provide up to $10 million in grants to connect underserved rural communities to the benefits of community-scale renewable energy. The program aims to help communities reduce their energy costs, reduce pollution and fight climate change.

Funds will be awarded in the form of cost-shared grants up to 80% of total eligible project costs. They can be used to deploy community-scale renewable energy projects, including solar, wind, geothermal, micro-hydro, and biomass/bioenergy. Up to 20% of funds can be used for community energy planning, capacity building, technical assistance, or community efficiency and weatherization.

Applications will receive priority points if the projects advance key rural development priorities, including helping communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, advancing equity and addressing climate change.

Eligible applicants include nonprofit, state, local, and tribal entities and municipalities. Priority will be given to communities with high energy loads or those that spend a greater proportion of their income on energy costs compared to the average US household.

The deadline to submit a letter of intent is April 19. Application details can be found on the USDA Rural Energy Pilot Program webpage.

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, nonprofit organization that works to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action-oriented programs that address issues social, economic and environmental.

About Keneth T. Graves

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