WASHINGTON—Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will today introduce legislation to reauthorize the Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP), a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiative providing no-interest loans to rural utilities to help communities access cost-effective energy upgrades for homes and businesses. With support from RESP, rural utilities can finance projects to electrify household heating and cooling, increase energy efficiency, and transition to renewable energy. The bill both reauthorizes RESP and improves the program to help rural utilities maximize the program’s benefits for customers. Representatives Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and Nikki Budzinski (D-IL) will introduce the bill in the House.
“The Rural Energy Savings Program makes energy upgrades more accessible for families and small businesses throughout our rural communities—it’s an incredibly valuable tool to help folks lower their energy use and save money on energy bills,” said Sen. Welch. “This bill with reauthorize RESP and help more rural communities access energy efficiency upgrades, electrification improvements, and renewable energy. I’m glad to join Sen. Murkowski to introduce this important legislation.”
“High energy costs are hurting Alaskan families, especially in our rural communities. We must do more to make energy more affordable and accessible across the state,” said Sen. Murkowski. “This bipartisan bill aims to provide Alaskans and Alaskan utilities with more opportunities to invest in cleaner, more resilient energy generation, and ultimately, lower the financial impacts that come from living in such a geographically unique state.”
The Rural Energy Savings Program provides no-interest loans to rural utilities, electric cooperatives, and related entities to offer affordable financing for rural households and businesses making energy efficiency, electrification, and renewable energy improvements. Financing is most often used to support air sealing, insulation, new space conditioning systems, and new water heaters.
The bill will both reauthorize RESP and improve the program by providing limited grant funding to rural utilities to offset administrative and program costs, extending the maximum repayment term for loans to consumers to up to 20 years, and expanding eligibility for all households within a rural utility’s service territory. The bill also codifies the ability of “green banks” to access RESP and codifies manufactured housing as an eligible improvement.