Will Rural America Continue REAPing Renewable Energy Rewards?

Guest Blog | December 6, 2013 | Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy, Solar
The United States Department of Agriculture’s office of Rural Development administers the REAP grant program, among other clean energy incentives.

As America awaits the House and Senate conference committee agreement on a Farm Bill, now is a good time to check on the progress of one exceptionally good clean energy incentive under consideration.  The Farm Bill’s cornerstone clean energy program called REAP, or the Rural Energy for America Program.  We’ve blogged about it several times before.

Based on our tally of 2013 REAP announcements, the total awards for the Southeastern states approaches $5 million in grants, leveraging more than $15 million in private dollars. These investments include solar photovoltaic installations, energy efficiency equipment, geothermal, and biomass projects.

Energy efficiency awards were particularly notable this year, with diverse projects including irrigation, lighting, agricultural curing and drying, and diesel engines being replaced with electric motors.

Solar energy powers the biodiesel operation at Down To Earth Energy in Monroe, GA. The project benefited from a 25% cost-share grant from the USDA’s REAP.

Here’s the state-by-state breakdown of 2013 REAP grant awards for our region (rounded down to the nearest thousand):

FL > $354,000
GA > $1,400,000
NC > $1,417,000
SC > $584,000
TN > $1,224,000

Altogether, these cost-share grants leveraged more than $15 million in private investments for rural development in the region. These projects are providing significant energy savings and benefits to our region, but future projects are uncertain as funding is on the chopping block.

In October, SACE joined with a coalition of 135 other organizations to urge the House-Senate Conference Committee to pass a Farm Bill with a strong energy title, including REAP. The co-chairman of the Agriculture Energy Coalition, Lloyd Ritter, put it this way: “Rural and agricultural communities shouldn’t be left behind in the nation’s economic recovery. Necessary investments in farm bill energy programs will help these communities create economic growth and good-paying jobs.”

SACE has supported the REAP program for more than seven years because it delivers effective results for development of a clean energy economy. It helps some of our small and medium-scale farmers and rural businesses, and it’s got strong protections against misuse and abuse of the funds. Moreover, it leverages private investment: Every dollar of grant funds must be matched by at least three dollars from private sources.

This program is important to rural development, and important to the environment. Contact your Congressional representatives and Senators and tell them, “Let’s get a Farm Bill passed with a strong Energy Title!”

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