The US Department of Agriculture created an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program, the final rule of which was published in the Federal Register. This new program, under the purview of USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), provides an initial $250 million per year in federal loans and financial assistance to support energy efficiency programs operated by the more than 900 rural electric cooperatives and other rural utilities. RUS anticipates higher funding levels in subsequent years to meet demand.
With the federal loan capital, utilities will be able to finance investments in energy upgrades to homes and businesses. Participating customers who benefit from the program repay the utility through their utility bills in a process known as on-bill financing.
Additional loan-eligible projects include small-scale distributed generation, demand-side management investments, energy audits, consumer education and outreach programs, and energy efficient lighting. The USDA says performance thresholds will ensure the funds are well spent, for maximum impact.
The first energy efficiency loans will be issued by summer 2014.