Today, Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) introduced legislation with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to make it easier for rural families, farms, and small businesses to pay for energy efficiency upgrades through their regular utility bills.
"As a farmer, I know that the price of energy can take a heavy toll on the bottom line. Hoosiers can save money by doing more with less energy through common-sense improvements at home," Lugar said. "The Farm Bill is an important partner in rural development, and rural energy savings should be included this year."
The Merkley-Lugar Rural Energy Savings Program Act (RESPA), S.2216, would enhance existing lending authority at USDA's Rural Utilities Service to authorize loans to rural electric cooperatives, which in turn can offer low interest loans to their customers for permanent energy efficiency upgrades. Americans choosing to participate would repay the loans over a period of no more than 10 years directly on their monthly energy bills.
"Relatively simple energy efficiency upgrades pay for themselves. The problem for many rural families, farmers, and small businesses is finding even modest up-front capital. Through local partnerships with non-profit rural electric co-ops that already know their customers, we enable savings quickly."
The bill is supported by the Indiana Statewide Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives and the National Rural Electrical Cooperatives Association.
Lugar has also included RESPA in his REFRESH Farm Bill reauthorization that would cut spending by $40 billion and in his Practical Energy Plan that would save Americans $33 billion annually through energy savings.
Lugar described the opportunity for rural energy savings in an oped published in The Hill:
"Rural areas are especially ready for these cost-saving steps. Over 42 million Americans live in rural communities, many in homes that are significantly less efficient than those typically found in cities. The USDA has found that rural households spend $200 to $400 more per year on their utility bills than comparable urban households. That's a hefty price at a time when families are doing their best to tighten their belts."