There’s never been a better time for LPCs in the Tennessee Valley to pursue renewable energy solutions thanks to federal funding opportunities and flexibility options by TVA. With that in mind, Seven States recently held a webinar on the topic of USDA’s PACE and New ERA grant programs — two programs funded by the Inflation Reduction Act that represent the largest investment in rural electrification since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act into law in 1936.

Attendees, representing over 50 different LPCs, heard from Administrator Andy Berke and Senior Energy Counselor Clare Sierawski of USDA Rural Development, as well as Cindy Herron, VP of the Federal Funding Project Management Office of TVA. Our own Steve Noe led the discussion with the participants. A recording of the webinar is available here.

Administrator Berke discussed how Tennessee Valley LPCs are uniquely positioned for new federal funding opportunities. He provided background information and the purposes of the Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) Program and Empowering Rural America (New ERA) Program. As a native Tennessean and the former mayor of Chattanooga, Administrator Berke said he was excited about the opportunity these new programs provide for Valley LPCs.

Clare Sierawski of USDA discussed the details of the grant opportunities, including which entities and projects would be best suited to each program. Clare described the ideal applicants and hypothetical projects for each program to give the audience an idea of which program they should pursue for their unique projects.

Under PACE, USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service will forgive up to 60% of loans for renewable energy projects that use wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, or biomass, as well as for renewable energy storage projects. The New ERA program is designed to be flexible and prioritizes greenhouse gas reductions rather than requiring the use of specific technologies.

Cindy Herron shared TVA’s commitment to helping LPCs learn more and apply for USDA grants. Before handing it off to Seven States’ Steve Noe, she encouraged LPCs to reach out to her with any specific questions about these programs. Steve closed the webinar by thanking the participants for sharing their insight into these excellent new funding options.

The application window for PACE opened July 10 and New ERA opens on July 31, so be sure to reach out to Seven States if you are interested in pursuing either of these opportunities.