Electric co-ops and White House officials discuss collaboration on efficiency and renewable energy

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Jo Ann Emerson joined co-op leaders and officials from the White House Rural Council and the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) in late July to discuss recent progress and potential collaboration on efficiency and renewable energy development.

“We had a productive conver­sation about how we can maximize the value of current federal programs and find creative opportunities to extend the benefits of new efficiency and ­renewable energy technologies to co-op consumers,” said Emerson.

Co-ops have been aggressively ­adding renewable energy ­capacity to the rural electric grid. The nation’s more than 900 co-ops own or ­purchase about 16.5 GW of ­renewable capacity and plan to add 2 GW of capacity in the near future. Co-op development of ­community solar has surged – co-ops have ­developed 43 community solar arrays and are planning another 35 projects in a total of 24 states including here in Illinois.

Participants discussed, among other topics, the Rural Utilities Service Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program (EECLP), a ­program offering loans to finance energy ­efficiency and conservation ­projects for commercial, industrial and residential consumers. Under this ­program, co-ops can re-lend the money to members to develop new and diverse energy service products within their service territories.

Many co-op leaders view ­maximizing co-op and end-user efficiency as a key component in a broader strategy for meeting the challenges of growing electricity demand and rising costs. According to NRECA research, 82 percent of cooperatives offer energy efficiency programs to their members.