Bennet: Rural Energy Savings Program Enlists Colorado Electric Co-ops In Effort to Save Money and Create Jobs in Colorado’s Rural Communities

Environment Colorado

Washington, DC –Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, joined a bipartisan coalition of Senate and House Members as an original sponsor of legislation establishing a Rural Energy Savings Program to create jobs, save American families and businesses money on their electric bills, and reduce carbon pollution. The bipartisan bill is estimated to create 20,000 to 40,000 jobs a year and has been endorsed in Colorado by the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Colorado Rural Association, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, and Environment Colorado among others.

“Rural America has been hit hard by the economic downturn,” said Bennet.  “This bill will help rural economies recover by creating thousands of good-paying jobs in Colorado and across the country.  These jobs will help reduce pollution, save families money and increase our energy security; they are jobs that will be created right here in Colorado and can’t be shipped overseas.  The Rural Energy Savings Program is a commonsense, bipartisan bill supported by a broad coalition of partners, and I look forward to getting it passed into law.”

“The Colorado Rural Electric Association supports the Rural Energy Savings Program which will enable rural electric consumers to obtain low-interest loans for the purpose of making energy-saving improvements to their homes and businesses. Rural consumers will benefit from the long-term efficiency investments and be able to repay the loans from the savings on their energy bills, ” said Kent Singer, Executive Director of the Colorado Rural Electric Association.

“We’ve proven here in Colorado that energy efficiency works– will can grow new jobs, jumpstart our economy, put money back in the pockets of consumers, and protect our environment all at the same time. Efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest, most secure form of new energy we have, and it is exciting to partner with rural utilities and Sen. Bennet to ensure that folks all across rural America have the opportunity to participate in building our new energy future by expanding access for energy efficiency upgrades,” said Pam Kiely, Program Director for Environment Colorado.

” Energy Efficiency is not just essential to our national security, it’s a key to rebuilding our rural economies. We applaud Sen. Bennet and his colleagues for their hard work to protect the financial stability of rural America through energy efficiency improvements,” said Bill Midcap, Director of Renewable Energy Development for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

The bill provides $4.9 billion in loan authority through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to electric cooperatives to offer low-interest micro-loans to residential and small business customers for energy-saving retrofit and structural improvements.  

The program will help create jobs in the domestic manufacturing and construction industries, as energy-efficiency products are almost exclusively manufactured in the United States and installation jobs cannot be exported.  The program builds on the existing co-op infrastructure that has strong community ties and a demonstrated 75-year history of on-bill financing for consumer loans.  

Trained auditors and contractors will conduct energy audits to determine what sorts of energy efficiency improvements are warranted.  Typical consumer loans will be $1,500 to $7,000, and will cover sealing, insulation, heat pumps, HVAC systems, boilers, roofs and other improvements that the utility has demonstrated to RUS will produce sufficient savings.  Participating consumers repay the co-ops for the installation and material costs through an extra charge on their utility bills within not more than a 10 year window.  The energy savings from the upgrade will cover most, if not all, of the cost of the loan.  Consumers will save more on their energy bills after the loan is repaid, saving most families hundreds of dollars annually.  Every dollar loaned by RUS to the co-ops is repaid to the taxpayers within ten years after the cooperative re-lends the funds to the consumer.

Original Co-sponsors: SENATE: Sen. Bennet (D-CO), Sen. Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Graham (R-SC), Sen. Lugar (R-IN), Sen. Shaheen (D-NH), Sen. Johnson (D-SD).  HOUSE: Rep. Clyburn (D-SC), Rep. Perriello (D-VA), Rep. Whitfield (R-KY), Rep. Spratt (D-SC).