Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Biden Administration Opens Applications for New ERA to Boost Clean Energy in Rural Communities

On May 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture opened applications for a new grant program for rural electric cooperatives called “New ERA,” designed to promote clean energy, economic development, and job growth in rural areas.
The New ERA program is made possible through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and provides funding for a variety of clean energy projects, including renewable energy generation, battery storage, transmission, and energy efficiency programs. Under the IRA, individual utilities may each apply for up to $970 million in direct support, including both grants and low-cost loans for a wide range of clean energy programs. Rural utility companies will be able to find clean energy portfolios that work for their customers, benefiting from low-cost financing options and grants that can cover a quarter of their initial expenses.


Rural electric cooperatives have 60 days to submit letters of interest to participate in the program.


“Rural cooperatives deliver energy to 92% of counties experiencing persistent poverty across the country. Yet, for decades, they have been shut out of the opportunities critical federal programs provide, driving up energy costs for those who can least afford it,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous. “We’re pleased the Biden Administration is continuing to advance this critical program, which has the potential to finally drive down energy costs for working families while positioning rural cooperatives as clean energy leaders.”


“New ERA represents an important step toward leveling the playing field for rural electric cooperatives in clean energy development,” said Sierra Club Senior Advisor Jeremy Fisher. “Combined with direct-pay tax credits, rural cooperatives will be able to build low-cost solar, wind, storage, and demand management programs, driving down costs for members and increasing rate stability. New ERA enables rural communities to not only host the transition, but own it. We’re excited to see this program finally come to fruition, and the Biden Administration’s dedication to getting New ERA implemented effectively. We applaud the cooperatives that are positioning themselves as clean energy leaders, and looking to make the most of this program.”



“We applaud USDA for launching the New ERA grant program, which will not only promote clean energy but also support economic development and job growth in rural areas,”  said Amelia Myers, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director, Intermountain West. “This program is a crucial step towards achieving a sustainable and equitable future for all. By providing funding for renewable energy generation, battery storage, transmission, and energy efficiency programs, the New ERA program will help rural electric cooperatives build clean energy portfolios that work for their customers while benefiting from low-cost financing options and grants. We encourage all eligible utilities to apply for this program and take advantage of this opportunity to make a positive impact on their communities.”


“USDA’s New ERA provides a much-needed opportunity at this critical moment. Indiana’s investor-owned utilities have been rapidly accelerating toward clean energy, and it’s time that we level the playing field for the cooperatives that serve our rural communities,” said Wendy Bredhold, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Indiana and Kentucky. “This is an exciting opportunity for Hoosier Electric and Wabash Valley to make deep investments in our rural clean energy economy, drive down costs to members, and clean up our air. Rather than just hosting the clean energy economy, rural communities can lead and own this transition.”


“I recently spent a week in Eastern Kentucky with rural communities still recovering from last year’s flood damage, where they are leveraging many of the new federal programs that will empower rural America,” said Lane Boldman, Director, Kentucky Conservation Committee. “It is exciting to see the energy and optimism in these communities, which are actively planning for a new future through these programs, and I hope the New ERA program will bring even greater benefits to the rural communities that need them most.”


“Tri-State Generation and Transmission is already leading the rural clean energy transition nationally by making steps to replace expensive coal units with more affordable clean energy, and there is still more work to be done,” said Grace Thorvilson, Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Colorado. “With Coloradans already facing high energy costs this year, it is more important than ever for utilities like Tri-State to take advantage of New ERA funding to replace its expensive coal units with affordable, local clean energy.”

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