New legislation filed recently in Congress would go a long way toward helping people and businesses in rural areas like Central Appalachia save money and energy and create jobs.
The Rural Energy Savings Program, filed as H. R. 4785 and S. 3102, would assist rural electric cooperatives in offering “on-bill” financing to their customers. On-bill financing allows families and businesses to repay energy efficiency improvements to their homes and buildings through the resulting savings on their monthly energy bills. It sets up a program of energy audits to identify cost-effective improvements and financing that doesn’t require ratepayers to take on additional personal debt—payback simply becomes an aspect of a participant’s utility bill.
While many energy efficiency improvements to homes and businesses are cost-effective, most ratepayers lack the up-front capital needed to pay for such improvements. The Rural Energy Savings Program would support on-bill financing by authorizing funds to the USDA Rural Utility Service that rural electric co-ops could access and by setting up a national infrastructure to support local co-op on-bill efforts.
Primary House sponsor Rep. James Clyburn stated, “This bill provides for energy conservation, job creation and cost-effective upgrades that will improve consumers’ quality of life. There is such broad support for this initiative because it is a win-win-win proposition.”
The Rural Energy Savings Program would create between 20,000 and 40,000 jobs across rural America. With $1 billion in appropriations, the bill will leverage $4.9 billion in consumer efficiency upgrades.
The bill is supported by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and the House version of the bill is sponsored by several congressional representatives from Central Appalachian states, including Reps. Phil Roe from Tennessee, Ben Chandler and Ed Whitfield from Kentucky, and Tom Perriello from Virginia. Both the House and Senate versions have been referred to committee, and may be heard in May.