The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) applauds Congress for passing the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.
The 2018 Farm Bill funds programmes that advance and support energy efficiency in rural communities, where energy burdens commonly have an outsized impact on quality of life.
The legislation approves and updates two programmes that could benefit rural America: the Rural Energy Savings Programme (RESP) and the Renewable Energy for America Programme (REAP).
RESP offers low-interest loans to borrowers to make energy efficiency improvements in their homes and small businesses. It lends money to rural electric cooperatives (co-ops) and other rural electric utilities, which then re-lend the funds to customers or co-op members.
Energy efficiency technologies lower energy bills over time, but can have high up-front costs. Many customers in these targeted communities do not have access to financing needed for these upgrades. RESP fills that gap. It can be used for “on-bill financing” programmes in which loans are repaid through energy bills.
REAP helps agricultural and rural businesses, including farms and ranches, install renewable energy technologies and energy-efficient technologies by way of loan guarantees and grants.
These technologies include heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; cooling or refrigeration units; high quality doors and windows; electric, solar or gravity pumps for sprinkler pivots; insulation; and efficient lighting. The programme is so successful it is continuously oversubscribed.
The bill also increases funding for rural broadband, which is important infrastructure for energy management.
It continues support for the Community Wood Energy Programme and National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA), which each address efficiency of these two uniquely important rural fuels. It also continues the Conservation Stewardship Programme, which includes support for energy and water conservation.