Arlington, VA.; March 21, 2012 – Today, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Glenn English applauded Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) on the introduction of S.2216, the Rural Energy Savings Program Act, a bipartisan measure aimed at spurring new investments in energy efficiency.
The legislation would provide electric cooperatives access to a new loan program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service. Cooperatives would use the funds to offer consumer-members micro-loans to complete energy saving investments in their homes, which can be paid back primarily through savings on their electric bills.
High construction costs and regulatory uncertainty have made building new power generation difficult for many rural utilities. Substantial efficiency gains can help electric co-ops find some of the capacity needed to ensure reliable and affordable electricity to their members, and many cooperatives are building energy efficiency into their long-term resource planning.
“Energy efficiency is sometimes called the ‘fifth fuel,’ but that concept will remain just a concept unless we find a way to make efficiency gains affordable for energy consumers. If enacted, the legislation introduced today would go a long way toward achieving this goal,” English explained.
Electric cooperatives across the nation are developing programs to encourage energy efficiency investments. For example:
- A program created by Midwest Energy in Hays, Kansas known as How$mart serves, in part, as a model for the Rural Energy Savings Program.
- The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina have implemented a similar research pilot that is testing the program model to determine if, with a strong, coordinated investment in efficiency, co-ops can avoid building new power generation.
- Hoosier Energy in Indiana used stimulus funds to undertake a full-scale home efficiency upgrade assistance program that was so successful the co-op received a second grant to extend the program.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.