Cost-saving climate solutions should be within reach for all Americans. That is why today, the Department of Agriculture took an important step to support that goal by awarding the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) a $46 million loan to help its customers save on energy costs through retrofits that cut energy waste and installations of new renewable energy systems. This latest award from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program (EECLP) brings the total investment from the program to more than $100 million dollars for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in rural areas.
The award today represents the largest EECLP project since the program’s launch in December 2013. The program enables businesses and families to switch to cleaner and more efficient fuel sources and install energy efficient building upgrades by reducing barriers to investment—cutting energy bills for rural American families and businesses in the process. Recognizing that more Americans can benefit from this important program, the Department continues to accept new applications to the EECLP.
This USDA loan will provide major benefits to rural Vermont residents, businesses, and communities by reducing energy costs for farmers and food manufacturers—including family run dairies and maple syrup producers. Cost-effective and high-quality energy efficiency upgrades will save families and businesses money throughout the year and help them remain competitive during Vermont’s long winter heating season.
“This loan will reduce barriers to energy investments by lowering the upfront costs, spreading these costs over 20 years, and by making financing more available”Secretary Tom Vilsack
VEIC will operate and administer the program through Efficiency Vermont, an energy efficiency utility with a state-wide and predominantly rural service territory that dedicates a portion of its annual budget to services for low-income residents. The utility has a 15-year history of providing efficient lighting, appliances, equipment, and HVAC systems to residential and business customers. VEIC’s partnership with Efficiency Vermont serves as a model of how utilities can enable large-scale energy efficiency and renewable investments.
The Department of Agriculture has awarded loans to two additional programs through the EECLP. One award, to the Roanoke Electric Membership Cooperative, is supporting investments that cut waste and reduce costs while improving the quality and comfort of homes and businesses in the Roanoke community. Another, awarded to the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, is funding geothermal and air source installations, energy efficiency lighting, and weatherization measures.
EECLP is one part of an all-in approach by the Obama Administration to advance access to climate solutions in rural America. Since 2009, the USDA has undertaken additional energy initiatives, providing financing for more than 14,000 energy projects nationwide through $2.1 billion in strategic investments to support rural businesses and American energy independence. These programs have saved more than 10.5 billion kilowatt hours of energy and have produced 160 million gallons of advanced biofuels.
In Vermont alone, USDA invested nearly $2.7 billion between 2009 and 2014. This includes more than $680 million in economic development to support affordable housing and create jobs; more than $263 million in infrastructure development, including electricity, broadband and telecommunications, water, and community facilities; and $135 million through conservation efforts to protect Vermont’s land, water, and air resources.
Under President Obama's leadership, investments in energy efficiency, housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have helped build a vibrant rural America – strengthening America’s economy, small towns, and rural communities. Today’s announcement is a key part of rising to the climate change challenge, and meeting the ambitious goals agreed to in the historic Paris agreement.
Ali Zaidi is the Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science at the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Doug O’Brien is Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs with the White House Domestic Policy Council.