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USDA Launches Two Initiatives That Could Help Build Virginia Clean Energy Economy

Barbara Bowen
Release Date

RICHMOND, Va., May 16, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has positively impacted the lives of generations of Americans with a long track record of helping rural communities thrive. Today, the agency is making history again by launching two new programs, which represent the largest single investment in electrifying rural areas since President Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act into law in 1936.

Nearly $11 billion in grants and loan opportunities are being made available through President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to help bring affordable, reliable clean energy to small cities and towns across the country. Virginia rural energy and utility providers can be part of that success story by applying for one or both of these offerings: 

  • Empowering Rural America (“New ERA”) – $9.7 billion in loans and grants available to eligible rural electric cooperatives (current and previous USDA borrowers) to deploy renewable energy systems, zero-emission and carbon capture systems. Eligible entities must submit a Letter of Interest between July 31 and Aug. 31, 2023.  
  • Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) - $1 billion in partially forgivable loans to help renewable-energy developers and electric service providers finance large-scale solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydropower projects and energy storage in support of renewable energy systems. Eligible entities include municipals, cooperatives and investor-owned and tribal utilities. The maximum loan is $100 million with a forgiveness option for 40 percent of the loan amount. Tribal communities are eligible for up to 60 percent loan forgiveness. USDA will begin accepting Letters of Interest on a rolling basis from June 30 to Sept. 29, 2023.

“This really is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help combat the climate crisis while also enhancing Virginia’s rural quality of life,” said Perry Hickman, USDA Rural Development Virginia State Director. “This groundbreaking investment could also lead to a healthier population, create new jobs and support economic development in the commonwealth.”

Today’s announcement is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to grow the American economy by rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, driving more than $435 billion in private-sector manufacturing investments, creating good-paying jobs and building a clean-energy economy to tackle the climate crisis and make our communities more resilient. The PACE program will support those efforts by helping vulnerable, disadvantaged, tribal and energy communities heat their homes, run their businesses and power their cars, schools and hospitals using more affordable clean energy. 

More information on the New ERA program is available at https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/electric-programs/empowering-rural-america-new-era-program. Visit https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/electric-programs/powering-affordable-clean-energy-pace-program to learn more about the PACE program. 

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, promoting competition and fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov

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