April 01, 2021
REAP 3.0: Expanding and Improving the Rural Energy for America Program for Climate Action
REAP has proven its worth, so the time has come to expand and support more ambitious farm energy efforts. With increased funding and policy improvements, REAP 3.0 can provide climate solutions and rural infrastructure investment.
President Biden’s new American Jobs Plan promises to “invest in rural communities and communities impacted by the market-based transition to clean energy.” One of the best ways to do so is by expanding an existing program that has been effective and incredibly popular for decades: the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
REAP has proven its worth, so the time has come to expand and support more ambitious farm energy efforts.
REAP leverages renewable energy and efficiency investments to provide economic development in rural communities. It is already a leading carbon reduction strategy that also benefits the bottom line for farmers and rural small businesses. It provides a solid foundation to support US goals for modernized infrastructure and a clean energy transition.
Over 19,000 farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses have used REAP to cut energy costs, produce clean energy, and boost rural economic development since its inception in 2002. REAP’s competitive grants and loan guarantees accelerate use of a range of clean energy technologies that can serve every agricultural sector in every state. REAP has always had bipartisan support and has been historically oversubscribed.
REAP has proven its worth, so the time has come to expand and support more ambitious farm energy efforts. Congress should increase annual REAP mandatory funding from $50 million to at least $300 million annually over 10 years to accelerate clean energy and energy efficiency investments in rural America. ELPC also led a coalition of 69 groups in writing a letter to President Biden asking him to increase the investment in REAP as part of his Build Back Better agenda.
With increased funding and policy improvements, REAP 3.0 can provide climate solutions and rural infrastructure investment in more farms, communities, and rural businesses nationwide.
Invest in staff and outreach
USDA needs to replenish staffing at state offices to ensure farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses are told about program opportunities. Outreach and education are key to program success. University extension services and Resource Conservation & Development districts and other community-based groups can provide outreach and assistance on energy as well as soil conservation, etc.
Strengthen the Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance (EA/REDA) program
The EA/REDA program provides grants to institutions such as universities, states, rural electric cooperatives to provide energy audits and renewable energy development assistance. To reach the scale needed for effective climate action, Congress must raise the funding cap and make program funds available year-round. For the best impact, EA/REDA should be upgraded to combine energy efficiency planning with renewable energy options.
Increase Equity in REAP awards
REAP benefits should be available to all in agriculture, including historically underserved and disadvantaged farmers. An increase in funding should include specific direction to USDA to ensure equity in the program, with increased attention, outreach and education.
Reducing Carbon Pollution
USDA should be directed to include greenhouse gas impacts in scoring REAP applications and not fund technologies that worsen carbon pollution. USDA should also measure greenhouse gas reductions achieved through program investments and report annually to Congress.
Create a REAP Rebate Program
A REAP rebate would cover pre-approved technologies that cut energy costs and carbon pollution. The rebate program for pre-approved technologies could reach additional eligible parties with a more simplified application and reduced program administrative costs.
Create Farm Energy Star
No baseline data exists for energy use by different types or models of agricultural equipment. A “Farm Energy Star” program based on the EPA’s Energy Star program should be created to provide performance data and standards: baseline energy use by commodity, technology, product, etc. This will help to drive energy efficiency innovations by manufacturers.
REAP is an existing, and very successful, program that should be considered critical to addressing our nation’s climate challenges as part of the new infrastructure package. With REAP 3.0, rural communities can cut carbon pollution with clean energy and efficiency savings while increasing rural economic development. Investing in sustainable rural infrastructure is investing in the future of America. We can do this.