Legislation, Top Story

Lugar Support Boosts Co-op Program

By Steven Johnson | ECT Staff Writer Published: May 3rd, 2012

Electric cooperatives have scored a major victory in the Senate, with a helping hand from a veteran senator from Indiana.

Sen. Richard Lugar

Sen. Richard Lugar

Republican Richard Lugar added an amendment establishing an energy-efficiency initiative backed by co-ops to the 2012 Farm Bill that the Senate Agriculture Committee passed April 26.

Lugar’s amendment, offered with Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., authorizes the Rural Energy Savings Program, which supporters say will help save money for rural homeowners and offset part of the need for expensive new power plants.

NRECA CEO Glenn English said co-ops appreciate the work Lugar has done on their behalf with the energy-efficiency program, as well as past battles during his six terms in the Senate.

“Sen. Lugar has been a strong and effective advocate for rural America, and co-ops have been able to count on him when they needed him most. This most recent success on the Rural Energy Savings Program will benefit rural residents in Indiana and across the country,” English said.

The Conrad-Lugar amendment authorizes the Rural Utilities Service to provide zero-interest loans to co-ops or statewide associations. Co-ops can then distribute low-interest loans for efficiency upgrades that members repay with a small charge on their monthly electric bills.

The provision, which passed by voice vote, incorporates S. 2216, a separate bill that Lugar and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., introduced March 21.

“Rural energy means more jobs and more income for Hoosiers, and it means more energy security for all Americans,” Lugar said. “Rural Americans take pride in the contribution they are making to improved national security through domestic energy production.”

Indiana electric co-ops also endorsed Lugar’s efforts.

“This bill will help rural co-ops start an energy-efficiency program if they don’t already have one and expand existing programs to allow more consumers to participate in on-bill financing of efficiency improvements,” the Indiana Statewide Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives said in a letter of support for S. 2216.

Merkley said the program also will help to boost employment in the energy-efficiency sector.

“I am pleased we could include this into the farm bill, so we can start creating jobs and saving money this year,” he said.

The Conrad-Lugar amendment was fully paid for by spending reductions in the Farm Bill.

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