The US Department of Agriculture plans to channel up to $250 million to rural utilities for energy efficiency projects in businesses and homes.
“Energy efficiency retrofitting can shrink home energy use by 40 percent, saving money for consumers and helping rural utilities manage their electric load more efficiently,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in the Dec. 4 announcement. “Ultimately, reducing energy use helps pump capital back into rural communities.”
Cooperatives and utilities will provide the loans to homeowners or businesses for energy audits, heating, lighting and insulation, and renewable energy installations.
USDA cited a March 2012 Rockefeller Foundation report that said a $279 billion investment in energy efficiency could yield more than $1 trillion in energy savings over 10 years – equivalent to 30 percent of U.S. annual electricity use.
The loan program is meant to support President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which received a new push from the White House this week. Obama directed federal agencies to begin incorporating the Green Button – a data standard that helps utility customers easily download their usage information. Three agencies will pilot use of the Green Button in federal buildings – the General Services Administration, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. Data collected from the effort will be entered into the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager to benchmark federal energy use and cut costs.
More information on the USDA loan program is here.