USDA launches rural energy pilot program

On January 19, the USDA announced it would award up to $10 million in grants under the new Rural Energy Pilot Program, which aims to help rural communities develop renewable energy. Biomass, bioenergy, wind, soar, geothermal and hydroelectricity are among the eligible technologies.

The USDA issued a request for information on the pilot program in March 2021. The information gathered through this effort helped inform the development of the program. The USDA also convened a federal interagency task force last spring to make recommendations.

Under the REPP, funds are awarded on a competitive basis to help rural community energy partnerships establish and grow clean energy communities through the development of technologies, innovations and distributed energy solutions at scale. community.

The maximum award per applicant is $2 million, with matching funds required of 20%. Grant funds can be used to pay up to 80% of eligible product costs directly related to commercially available, community-based, and community-scale distributed energy systems. Up to 20% of the prize can support community energy planning, capacity building, technical assistance, efficiency and weather protection.

Community-scale projects are defined as those whose generation capacity does not exceed 2 megawatts (MW). Eligible technologies must be commercially available renewable energy systems, such as biomass, bioenergy, wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower and distributed renewable energy resources.

The USDA is offering Priority Points to projects that advance the Biden-Harris administration’s key priorities to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, advance equality, and fight climate change. These additional points will increase the likelihood of funding for projects aimed at addressing these critical challenges in rural America. Targeted Assistance priority points will be given to distressed rural communities, distressed energy communities, high energy load communities, socially vulnerable communities as defined by the Centers for Disease Control, communities in qualified Opportunity Zones and disadvantaged communities. Priority consideration will also be given to communities planning, executing or deploying renewable energy generation technologies other than solar PV of at least 40% of total generation capacity, measured in megawatts of alternative generation capacity /megawatts of total generating capacity, according to a notice in the Federal Register.

An introductory webinar is scheduled for January 25. Letters of Intent must be submitted by April 19. A webinar focused on required Letters of Intent is scheduled for February 1. Additional webinars focused on the application process are scheduled for May 24 and June. 28.

Additional information is available on the USDA website.

Ryan H. Bowman