Merkley Introduces Bill to Create Jobs and Lower Energy Costs for Rural Communities

– Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley introduced legislation today to create jobs and lower energy bills for families and small businesses in rural communities by promoting energy-saving home renovations.  The Rural Energy Savings Program would assist rural electric co-ops in offering “on-bill” financing to their customers, allowing families and businesses to repay the loan through savings on their monthly energy bill. Oregon has 18 electric co-ops serving communities across the state.

Original co-sponsors of the Rural Energy Savings Program include Senators Jeff Merkley, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D), and Michael Bennett (D-Colo.).  A companion bill in the House of Representatives was introduced by Representatives James Clyburn (D-S.C), Tom Perriello (D-Va.), Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), and John Spratt (D-S.C.).

“For our rural communities to recover and thrive in the wake of the economic crisis, we need to put people back to work and lower families’ expenses, and the Rural Energy Savings Program does both,” Senator Merkley said.  “This program will help the families and businesses in rural areas who can’t afford the cost of a home or building renovation by offering them low-cost loans that they can repay out of the money they will save on their energy bills.”

“This bill provides for energy conservation, job creation and cost-effective upgrades that will improve consumers’ quality of life,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn said.  “There is such broad support for this initiative because it is a win-win-win proposition.”

“Oregon electric cooperatives applaud Senator Merkley for his proposal to encourage energy efficiency and create jobs in our rural communities,” Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association Executive Director Ted Case said.
To borrow money to fund local energy-efficiency programs, individual co-ops or state-based groups of co-ops will apply to the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) within the US Department of Agriculture.
The legislation has also received support from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.