Co-op energy innovation program applauded by industry leaders

Published on May 17, 2023 by Liz Carey

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A new rule for a program helping electric co-ops gain access to billions of energy innovation funding is garnering praise from rural energy groups.

Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new guidance for access to $9.7 billion in energy innovation funding will help rural cooperatives gain to move forward toward a clean energy future.

“This is an exciting and transformative opportunity for co-ops and their local communities, particularly as we look toward a future that depends on electricity to power more of the economy,” Matheson said in a statement. “USDA has smartly structured this program in a way that will help electric co-ops leverage new tools to reduce costs and keep energy affordable while meeting the future energy needs of their rural communities.”

The Co-op Energy Innovation Program was designed with NRECA’s help and passed through Congress as part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The program is specifically designed to help electric cooperatives interested in purchasing or building new clean energy systems, including carbon capture, renewable energy, storage, nuclear and generation, and transmission efficiency improvements. The USDA’s Rural Utilities Service will administer the program.

As part of the program, co-ops will be eligible for grant funding for up to 25 percent of the project cost, with a maximum of $970 million for any one entity.

The NRECA has nearly 900 local electric cooperatives across the country, which serve as economic engines for 42 million Americans across nearly 60 percent of the country.