High voltage transmission towers stretching into the distance at sunrise/sunset

Rural electric co-ops get $11 billion boost to go green

© iStock - zhaojiankang

Eric Tegethoff

(Oregon News Service) The Biden administration is dispersing $11 billion in loans and grants for rural electric cooperatives to go green. The programs are designed to ensure rural co-ops have the resources to deploy clean energy technology. 

Ted Case, Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association Executive Director, said co-ops in the state run largely on clean energy thanks to hydropower, but noted the state's grid needs more transmission lines.

"We're going to need additional ways to streamline the process and transmission is very expensive," Case said. "So these types of resources, these types of federal funds - whether it's grants or loans - they're going to be really important going to forward to just try to meet the energy needs of this country."

The funds are from the Inflation Reduction Act Congress passed last year and will be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Case added density can be an issue for bringing energy to rural areas, and cooperatives were created to ensure power came to the places too expensive for privately owned companies to hook up. While Oregon's electric co-ops are largely green, there are many parts of the country where that isn't the case, Case said.

"It's a pretty exciting opportunity to get this level of funding and certainly electric co-ops worked with the Biden administration to sort of shape this program through USDA," Case explained. "So, I think there could be lots of opportunities going forward for electric co-ops."

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association was part of the discussions on shaping this program. The federal government will accept letters of interest between July 31 and August 31.