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Mr. HOLDEN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chairman, the bill we are considering today, H.R. 4785, the Rural Energy Savings Program Act, will greatly benefit our rural residents. The agriculture provisions in this bill build on existing U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and will reduce energy consumption and, as a result, reduce energy costs in rural America.
Rural electric cooperatives estimate that the Rural Energy Savings Program Act has the potential to create between 20,000 and 40,000 jobs per year and will make loans available to between 1.1 and 1.6 million rural households, depending on the average consumer size. It is clear that this is a win-win proposition for our rural constituents and our rural economy.
This Act furthers the Agriculture Committee's commitment to expand renewable and alternative sources of power and discover new technologies to improve the efficiency and sustainability of existing power generation across rural America.
H.R. 4785 authorizes USDA's rural utility service to make interest-free loans to eligible entities. These entities will use these funds to make low-interest loans to rural consumers allowing them to implement energy-efficient measures on their property. Using the existing Rural Utilities Service structure, with the rural electric cooperatives as the delivery system, rural consumers can more quickly obtain the benefits of energy-efficient investments and ultimately decrease their energy bills.
Rural customers are facing increasing energy costs and rural electric cooperatives, which serve 42 million member owners across the country, are facing growing demand for electric power, yet are constrained from building new generation capacity.
The upfront costs to make energy-efficient upgrades are often beyond the reach of most consumers. This is true even if the costs can be recovered over time or a tax credit or a rebate would reduce the initial price. Additionally, consumers often lack the necessary knowledge about what technologies would be the most effective.
H.R. 4785 is an opportunity to meet these challenges and enact policy that we know will reduce energy costs and consumption and improve the quality of life in our rural communities.
I would like to thank Congressman Clyburn and Congressman Perriello for their hard work and dedication to improving energy efficiency and their support for the agriculture provisions within this Act.
Mr. Chairman, I strongly support the agriculture provisions contained in this Act and encourage its passage.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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