Congress may be having difficulty passing the administration’s energy reform, but they’ve made progress in some smaller ways.
The House Agriculture committee recently passed the “Rural Energy Savings Program Act” or Rural Star. The bill would create on-bill financing programs in rural electric utilities that would help customers pay for energy efficiency home retrofits.
If passed, the Rural Star program would require the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make $1 billion in loans to rural utilities to support the energy efficiency loans.
The program would be administered through USDA’s Rural Utilities Service and create a $4.9 billion loan authorization. USDA would supply the money as zero-interest loans to utilities, which would re-loan the money to support customers’ efficiency improvements.
Eligible retrofits would include building envelope (walls, windows, and roofs) upgrades and some heating and cooling equipment. The loans would be low interest (no greater than 3%) loans over short repayment periods (no greater than ten years). Each rural electric cooperative would select its own eligible improvements and establish its verification methods.
Rural Star needs to pass the full U.S. House and be paired with a companion Senate bill before becoming a law. The Senate bill awaits passage by the Senate Agriculture committee.
Image credit: daveeza via Flickr
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