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energy efficiency

Celebrating 80 Years of Partnership

This is a special year for rural electric cooperative utilities.  Eighty years ago, Congress passed and President Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.

The REA brought electricity to rural America, ultimately making the United States the source of the world’s food, fuel and fiber—the breadbasket for the world.

See How Clean Rural Energy is Growing North Carolina, and the Nation

In the last fiscal year, USDA Rural Development invested over $240 million in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the nation. Through our Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) we have changed the face of clean energy in our rural communities by promoting energy efficiency in rural small businesses and agricultural operations and the development of renewable energy sources in and around these small communities.

The renewable energy component has expanded both small and large-scale clean energy development in a number of sectors including geothermal, solar, wind, hydropower, and biofuels. Utilizing resources already available in our rural areas whether it's sun and wind, or water and agricultural waste, USDA in partnership with local lenders has been able to provide the financial underpinnings to grow hundreds of renewable energy projects.

USDA Partnerships Make Great Things Happen in Rural America: Disabled Woman Walks Across the Threshold of Her Own Home

This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories at #RuralPartners.

In recognition of National Homeownership Month, we recently cut the ribbon to Collette Brandt’s home. Collette has seen a lot of struggles over the past three years.  After falling at home and tragically severing her spinal column, the occupational therapist was told she may never walk again. The tragedy coincided with the end of a long term relationship and Collette had to move in with a co-worker.  Determined to walk again and eventually own her own home, Collette’s determination drove her to work her way back on her feet physically and financially.

Not sure of her options as a middle-aged, currently disabled single woman, Collette reached out to Melanie Page at the Union County Housing Authority (UCHA).  Through a Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development HOME grant (a federally funded program that provides municipalities with grant and loan assistance as well as technical assistance to expand the supply of decent and affordable housing for low- and very low-income Pennsylvanians), the UCHA builds and refurbishes homes for income eligible residents over the age of 55. As an added bonus, the homes are part of an energy research project with Pennsylvania State University.

Renewable Energy Professor Renews Wetlands

When Peter Talmage’s career as a professor of renewable energy and energy efficiency brought him from Maine to a college in Greenfield, Mass. with his wife and son, he knew that he wanted to enhance the beauty of the land that they bought in nearby Northfield and improve it as wildlife habitat.

So when his wife, Chris, heard about a USDA program that would guarantee its protection and provide help in restoring wetlands on the property, they were sold.

Through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Wetlands Reserve Program, Peter and Chris protected 3 ½ of 12 acres under a permanent conservation easement. They received technical and financial help reshaping wetlands that had long ago been converted to farmland.

Funds Promote Development of Rural Wood to Energy Projects

Earlier this week, USDA, U.S. Forest Service and partners took a major step to improve forest management, create rural jobs, prevent wildfires, and expand promising renewable energy opportunities.

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden joined leaders from the Alliance for Green Heat, the Biomass Power Association, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, and the Pellet Fuels Institute here in Washington for the announcement of a new partnership agreement. Acting as master of ceremonies for the signing event was Acting USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Doug O’Brien.  Through the Rural Energy for America program and other programs, Rural Development has been a leader in promoting deployment of wood-to-energy projects.

Secretary's Column: Energy Efficiency and the Food, Farm and Jobs Bill

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced more than 630 new projects across the country under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).  These new projects will help producers and businesses boost their bottom line, while increasing America’s energy security and protecting our environment.

Energy efficiency programs are a key part of the President’s overall plan to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate, while building our renewable energy capacity to support an all-of-the-above approach to America’s energy future.

Under the Obama Administration, USDA has used this program to support more than 7,000 energy efficiency projects. Many of these provided assistance on small and medium-sized farm and ranches, or in rural businesses.

Financially Challenged Indiana Community Gets a Safe Wastewater System with USDA Support

Rural Utilities Administrator John Padalino visited Indiana last month to promote electrical, energy efficiency, broadband and water programs provided to communities by USDA.

Padalino and Indiana Rural Development State Director Philip Lehmkuhler traveled to Mexico, Indiana to celebrate the community’s new wastewater treatment plant which was funded by USDA Rural Development.

Secretary Vilsack Announces Proposed Rule to Help Utilities Assist Home and Business Owners’ Energy Conservation Efforts

As Harrisburg, Penn., temperatures reached 93 degrees on Tuesday and continued to climb throughout the afternoon, it seemed an appropriate time for Secretary Tom Vilsack to announce a new proposed Federal Rule that could help rural homeowners and entrepreneurs save on their utility bills and create jobs in rural areas. The new energy efficiency effort will make federal loans available for rural electric cooperatives to re-lend to electric cooperative customers throughout America who want to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient. The partnership demonstrates a new “pathway to prosperity” according to Secretary Vilsack, and is “a reminder of President Obama’s commitment to stronger rural communities, a stronger rural economy, and strengthening rural values.”