Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., introduced S. 2216, the Rural Energy Savings Program Act, on March 21. Under the bill, the Rural Utilities Service would make zero-interest loans to individual electric co-ops or state groups of co-ops. In turn, they would lend the money to eligible members at no more than 3 percent interest to cover the up-front cost of energy-efficiency improvements.
Supporters say energy efficiency is a major need in older, rural dwellings and inefficient manufactured housing units.
“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,” said NRECA CEO Glenn English.
Typical microloans could finance weatherization, insulation, heating and air conditioning systems, boilers and other upgrades. The bill contains provisions to ensure the work is monitored and evaluated properly. Homeowners would repay the loan through a monthly
charge on their electric bills.
“This is a common sense, bipartisan bill,” Merkley said. “Energy-saving renovations create essential construction jobs and lower energy costs for consumers. We can get people back to work and put more money in homeowners’ pockets, and if that’s not common sense, I don’t know what is.”
Merkley and Lugar said their bill does not have a specific authorization amount, but is written to be incorporated into the larger Farm Bill, which is up for reauthorization this year.
Source: Steven Johnson,
Electric Co-op Today