Rural households spend approximately $400 more per year in energy bills than the typical urban household, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), making rural Americans a key player in saving energy and money, improving energy security, creating jobs, and protecting the country’s air and water.
Since 2009, the USDA’s Rural Development Program and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) have worked with rural community members, including those in the agriculture industry and rural business owners, to create renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvement projects. The 6,605 REAP projects have provided $213 million in grants, $178 million in loan guarantees, and will save 7.32 billion kWh annually – enough energy to power 680,000 households each year.
A collaboration between the DOE and USDA called the State Energy Extension Partnership was announced in February to provide rural families and businesses with efficiency tools, resources and training to help reduce energy costs. With the DOE’s energy efficiency expertise and the USDA’s Cooperative Extension Service resources, the partnership supplies expert financial and technical assistance across the rural U.S. According to the DOE, the project incorporates educational materials and programs for youth and adults and provides easy access to information on tax incentives and other financing mechanisms for renewable energy projects. The program supports rural communities’ energy efficiency and renewable energy goals to create jobs, expand businesses, and improve local economies.