On July 19, 2011, the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) and Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing on the energy title of the Farm Bill, with a special focus on the Rural Energy for America Program. Big decisions loom in the next Farm Bill, including for key farm energy programs. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) incentivizes a broad range of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies for all agricultural sectors across the country. As a result, thousands of rural producers and businesses are slashing energy costs with energy efficiency and renewable energy. They also are earning new income from renewable energy and creating new jobs, income, and wealth across rural America. This briefing provided an overview of the Farm Bill Energy Title, as well as specific examples of dairy and poultry producers, rural electric cooperatives, and other rural producers and small businesses from across the country that have benefited from the REAP program.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides grants and loan guarantees for large and small energy efficiency and/or renewable energy projects across rural America, including energy audits, feasibility studies, energy efficiency upgrades, wind power, solar power, anaerobic digesters, and bioenergy.
- REAP advances rural economic development and helps create and sustain jobs – approximately 18 jobs are created for every $1 million invested.
- REAP projects help rural businesses and agricultural producers become more economically competitive by reducing energy costs and vulnerability to volatile energy costs.
- REAP projects help reduce U.S. dependence on climate-changing fossil fuels.
- Some REAP projects (such as partial financing for anaerobic digesters) help turn air and water pollution streams into non-polluting revenue streams.
- REAP is needed to help rural businesses and agricultural producers afford the often high up-front capital costs of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
- REAP reflects wise stewardship of public resources, requiring $3 of private matching funds for every $1 of public funds.
- REAP projects promise continuing strong economic returns through energy cost savings and revenue from energy sales for decades to come.
- REAP has grown in popularity across rural America, funding thousands of projects in every region of the United States. Demand for REAP funding far exceeds the supply.
- REAP is one of the few federal incentive programs encouraging rural electric cooperatives to pursue energy efficiency and renewable energy development.
According to the WIRES-Brattle report, the manufacture and construction of new and upgraded transmission facilities could support between 150,000 and 200,000 full-time jobs annually in the United States, and another 20,000 to 50,000 annually in Canada over the next two decades. It also would bring a range of collateral benefits such as improved reliability, efficient grid operations, lower losses, greater resource diversity, and lower wholesale electricity prices. The transmission sector is already recovering from a period of dramatic underinvestment. Persistent barriers to needed transmission upgrades and expansion, unless reduced or eliminated, are likely to inhibit investment sufficient to meet the nation's foreseeable need for additional transmission capacity.
This briefing was part of a series co-sponsored by EESI and WIRES. The other briefings include "How the High-Voltage Grid Works", "Policy Challenges to Grid Expansion", "Upgrading the Grid", "Cost Allocation", "Integrating Variable Renewable Resources", "Planning to Expand and Upgrade the Grid", and "Examining FERC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking".