Tag Archives: US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

‘Build Back Better’ Hit a Wall, but Climate Action Could Move Forward

By Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, New York Times

The climate portion of Build Back Better includes about $555 billion aimed at moving the American economy away from its 150-year-old reliance on fossil fuels and toward clean energy sources. Instead of penalties to punish polluters, the bill offers incentives for industries, utilities and individuals to shift from burning oil, gas and coal for energy and transportation to using wind, solar and other forms of power that do not emit carbon dioxide, the most plentiful of the greenhouse gases that are warming the world.

It would provide about $320 billion in tax credits for producers and buyers of wind, solar and nuclear power. Buyers of electric vehicles would receive up to $12,500 in tax credits. It would extend existing tax credits to lower costs for homeowners of installing solar panels, geothermal pumps and small wind turbines, covering up to 30 percent of the bills. Read more here.

APPA FACT SHEET OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

The Need for Direct Payment Of Refundable Tax Credits for Public Power

APPA believes that if Congress intends to create incentives in pursuit of national energy and climate goals, it should realize that tax-based incentives will not have the market-wide reach of direct grants and other incentives. As a result, the association believes that tax-based incentives should be drafted to accommodate tax-exempt entities, including public power utilities. 

UTILITY DIVE SERIES

2022 Outlook: FERC expected to prioritize transmission, power markets and gas infrastructure, by Ethan Howland, Senior Reporter

This is the third part of Utility Dive’s 2022 Outlook Series.

With its oversight of interstate transmission and wholesale power markets, FERC, an independent agency, has a major role in the energy transition. “FERC’s regulation is central to the resilient, reliable future grid that’s already developing,” John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said.

Potential changes to the transmission system are driven by the growth of renewable energy, especially in areas that are far from major population centers, according to Moore. Other developments that are driving a focus on transmission planning include the development of offshore wind farms and the shift away from fossil fuels for cars, trucks and buildings, which will drive up electricity use, Moore said.

Referenced in the article: FERC’s new Office of Public Participation
Upcoming Resources for the Future Webinar: Policy Leadership Series with FERC Commissioner Allison Clements, January 25, 2022 at 10 a.m. Central Time


Fourth Part of Utility Dive’s 2022 Series 

2022 Outlook: US solar and wind boom continues despite supply chain woes, Build Back Better uncertainty,  by Iulia Gheorghiu

 

INTERIOR DEPARTMENT NEWS

Interior’s 2022 energy strategy: 3 things to watch, E&E News

Interior’s efforts will include authorizing solar energy in Western deserts and leasing waters in the Atlantic Ocean to offshore wind developers, as well as reexamining the rules that govern decommissioning offshore pipelines, drilling for oil and digging for federal coal . . . Meanwhile, renewables are about to get a boost on public lands.

Additional Recommended Reading: Offshore wind: a key to unlocking the American transition to a clean, reliable and affordable energy future, American Clean Power Association

USDA NEWS RELEASES

USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations Highlights 2021 Accomplishments to Advance Equity and Opportunity for Tribal Nations and Communities

“USDA and the federal government have a distinct relationship with tribal nations,” said USDA Office of Tribal Relations Director Heather Dawn Thompson. “We are embarking on new initiatives to reframe approaches to how USDA serves Indian Country and promotes government-to-government relationships with tribal nations.” 

MIDAMERICAN ENERGY NEWS RELEASE

MidAmerican Energy proposes $3.9 billion “Wind PRIME” renewable energy project

In a filing with the Iowa Utilities Board, MidAmerican’s proposed project, called Wind PRIME, would add 2,042 megawatts of wind generation and 50 megawatts of solar generation. The company also proposed conducting feasibility studies focused on other clean generation technologies, including carbon capture, energy storage and small modular nuclear reactors.

FEATURED EDUCATIONAL ORGANIZATION

The Zero Energy Project is a non-profit educational organization whose goal is to help home buyers, builders, designers, and real estate professionals take meaningful steps towards radically reducing carbon emissions and energy bills by building zero net energy homes and near zero energy homes.

We envision the day when positive energy homes, which produce more energy than they consume, will power electric vehicles as well as homes, so that everyone can live well with less expense and without fear of energy price spikes, while greatly reducing our carbon emissions.

Zero Energy Project’s Directory of Zero Energy Building Professionals
Recent Blog Post: Net-Zero vs Passive House: What are the Similarities and Differences?

DOE BETTER BUILDINGS WEBINAR

PV Valuation: How Solar PV Adds Value to Your Assets, February 1, 2022, 10 a.m. CT

Rooftop solar is a common renewable energy strategy, and owners and operators are now exploring potential financial benefits to the value of commercial and industrial properties. Learn from several building owners and managers on how they made the business case for solar PV and found increased asset value during appraisal or at the time of sale. This webinar will highlight multiple building types and financial models for solar PV.

Landmark Growing Climate Solutions Act clears Senate

By Jacqui Fatka, Farm Progress

The Growing Climate Solutions Act passed by a vote of 92-8 on the full Senate floor on Thursday. The act has 55 cosponsors, which makes it the first major piece of bipartisan legislation that would help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience through voluntary, market-driven programs.

“Addressing the climate crisis is one of the most urgent challenges we face, and our farmers and foresters are an important part of the solution,” says Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. “The bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act is a win-win for farmers, our economy and for our environment. Our bill is a perfect example of how we can work across the aisle and find common ground to address a critical issue affecting all of us and our future.” Continue reading here. (Scroll down).

Additional Recommended Reading

  • AgLines: Sen. Fischer cosponsors bill to help ag producers be part of climate solution, by Robert Pore, The Grand Island Independent. “Nebraska ag producers are good stewards of our land and resources,” [Senator] Fischer said. “They also want to be a part of the climate solution. I am a cosponsor of the bill the Senate passed today. It would enable farmers and ranchers to voluntarily participate in carbon markets so they can build on the great work they are already doing.” 
  • Farm Bureau Applauds Senate Passage of Growing Climate Solutions Act
    The American Farm Bureau Federation applauds the U.S. Senate for passing the Growing Climate Solutions Act.  The act has 55 cosponsors, which makes it the first major piece of bipartisan legislation that would help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience through voluntary, market-driven programs. The House is currently working on its version of the Growing Climate Solutions Act.
  • Rural Affairs applauds Senate for passing Growing Climate Solutions Act, Center for Rural Affairs News Release. “Carbon payment programs offer a financial opportunity for farmers voluntarily implementing important conservation on their farms,” said Kayla Bergman, senior policy associate for the Center. “While there has been growing excitement for these programs, we are now at a point where setting standard protocols is necessary.”
  • Senate OKs bill to certify farm practices limiting emissions, by John Flesher, AP Environmental Writer, Phys.Org. Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federatioin, said lack of access to reliable information about carbon markets and a shortage of technical assistance have deterred some landowners. The bill “acknowledges the potential of climate-smart farming while ensuring farmers would be respected as partners who can build on our strong foundation of environmental stewardship,” Duvall said.
  • Carbon market faces new questions, Iowa Farmer Today
    “The market is rejuvenating,” says Shelby Myers, an economist with the American Farm Bureau. Iowa State University economist Chad Hart says the idea of carbon markets — paying farmers for their conservation practices that keep carbon in the soil — appears to be more economically sustainable now. “I think we will see something now that will stick around for a while,” he says.

A Proclamation on Earth Day, 2021

By President Joseph R. Biden, The White House

On April 22, 1970, millions of Americans rallied together to protect the right of all of us to live free from environmental hazard and harm.  On that first Earth Day, they gathered all across America — on college campuses, in public parks, and State capitals — galvanized by a vision of a healthier, more prosperous Nation where all people could thrive.  Their untiring spirit sparked a national movement for environmental protection that endures today in the bedrock laws that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and treasured wild places and wildlife.

Earth Day was primarily conceived and brought to life by a dedicated public servant:  the late Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin.  Senator Nelson and his wife, Carrie Lee -– who herself passed away just last month –- were both dear friends who changed my life; it was Senator Nelson who helped persuade me to remain in the Senate after losing my first wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972.  Senator Nelson changed the world, too, by building a legacy of environmental protection through Earth Day and all of the progress that has come in its wake –- not because it was popular, but because it was the right thing to do for our children and grandchildren.

Over half a century later, that legacy lives on in the chorus of courageous young people across the world who are rising up to demand action on climate change.

Read the entire proclamation here.

Additional White House Briefing Room Releases & Statements

Biden Chooses Virginia Ag Commissioner For Deputy Secretary At USDA

By Chuck Abbott, Successful Farming

Two days before his inauguration, President-elect Biden selected Jewel Bronaugh, the Virginia state agriculture commissioner, as his nominee for deputy agriculture secretary, the No. 2 post at USDA. Bronaugh was among five women who were announced on Monday for deputy secretaries of federal departments and would be the first Black deputy secretary at USDA. The National Black Farmers Association said selection of Bronaugh was “an historic moment” for USDA. “We hope she will use her knowledge of the department to level the playing field for NBFA members as well as other minority and small-scale farmers and to end the culture of discrimination at the USDA,” said NBFA president John Boyd. Read more here.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Biden’s Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Meets With Black Farmers, Black Enterprise

According to the Guardian, there are only about 45,000 Black farmers today. In 1920, there were more than one million. During the meeting, Vilsack affirmed his commitment to forging and establishing strong partnerships with organizations that provide assistance and support to Black farmers. Vilsack also wanted to ensure that Black farming organizations have a seat at the table while he is serving . . . If confirmed, Vilsack will take over the USDA at a time when Trump’s trade war with China has made things worse for U.S. farmers, especially small farmers. Bankruptcies have increased for small farmers, even with record levels of federal assistance.

Nebraska Chapter 12 Bankruptcies

Carbon Markets for Farmers

Indianapolis Star articles by Sarah Bowman and London Gibson

  • There is a lot of money on the table with carbon markets. But farmers are skeptical.
    As more greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere and more companies pledge to go carbon neutral, interest in creating a market for carbon capture through agriculture is growing. Agriculture is now being seen by many as an untapped resource, and carbon markets the way to tap it.  “I think the potential is boundless, really,” said Mobley of The Nature Conservancy. “If it can work in Indiana, it can work anywhere in the country — politically, programmatically, with on-the-ground implementation, all of it.”
  • 5 things you need to know about what Biden’s plan for a carbon market means for farmers
    The incoming administration is proposing to create a carbon bank at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which would buy credits from farmers and then sell them to corporations for offsets. Several other private carbon market programs have popped up, both from companies and non-profit organizations that are developing their own platforms. 

RegeNErate Nebraska

RegeNErate Nebraska is a network of farmers and ranchers, tribes, urban farmers, supporting businesses, organizations, food consumers, and communities who are committed to a shift away from extractive industrial food production in favor of an ethical and regenerative food system. Lying in the middle of the nation, Nebraska is the heart of our nation, and the culture and principles found here serve as a lifeblood for a well-functioning country. RegeNErate Nebraska’s mission is to redevelop and strengthen our communities from the soil up. This starts with building strong communities. RegeNErate Nebraska Resource Guide

Rural Energy for America Program Grants & Loans

The USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) seeks applications for loan guarantees and grants for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvement projects. The grant terms for renewable energy systems are $2,500 minimum to $500,000 maximum and for energy efficiency grants, $1,500 to $250,000. The next deadline is March 31, 2021 for REAP grants. Guaranteed Loans are accepted on a continuous application cycle. Click the above link to see additional requirements. Program Fact Sheet

For more information contact Nebraska Energy Coordinator Jeff Carpenter at 402-437-5554 or jeff.carpenter@usda.gov.

Federal Investment Tax Credit 

The Solar Investment Tax Credit, Solar Energy Industries Association
Congress passed a multi-year extension of the ITC in 2020:


Rural Energy for America Program Applications Now Open


The USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) seeks applications for loan guarantees and grants for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvement projects.

Deadlines

  • Applications for Grants of $20,000 or Less and Loan/Grant of $20,000 or Less Combo Applications due by November 2, 2020, or March 31, 2021.
  • Applications for Unrestricted Grants or Loan/Unrestricted Grant Combo Applications due by March 31, 2021.
  • Guaranteed Loans are accepted on a continuous application cycle.

Additional Information
Program Fact Sheet
Hoja Informativa del Programa en Español

Nebraska Contact Person
Jeff Carpenter, Business Program Specialist, State Energy Coordinator, 402-437-5554

ENERGY RESOURCES FOR NEW FARMERS & RANCHERS

The USDA sponsors the development of a new series of extension materials designed specifically with new farmers in mind. Called “Energy Answers for the Beginning Farmer & Rancher,” it utilizes farm energy experts from university extension programs across the country to answer hot-topic energy questions. The main product of the project is a series of short, engaging videos and resources that give useful tips and information on farm energy. Contributing extension programs include Illinois, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin.

Links to additional resources for solar-powering farm operations & farmhouses: 

The federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is 26% to the end of 2020, dropping to 22% in 2021 and 10% for commercial and utility-scale projects and 0 for residential projects in 2022.
Source: Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) 

Obtaining a REAP grant, which provides 25% of the cost of a renewable energy system or energy efficiency improvement project, plus the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 26% would reduce the price a little more than half. Equipment depreciation is an additional benefit available for businesses to cut the cost even more.

Nebraskans for Solar Resources

Department of Energy Resource: Farmer’s Guide to Going Solar

USDA extends application deadline for the Rural Energy for America Program to April 15, 2020

The Rural Energy For America Program (REAP) provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.

Extension of Application Deadlines. 

Who may apply?

  • Agricultural producers with at least 50 percent of their gross income coming from agricultural operations.
  • Small businesses in eligible rural areas.

What is an eligible area?

  • Businesses must be in an area OTHER THAN a city or town with a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants and the urbanized area of that city or town. Check eligible business addresses.
  • Agricultural producers may be in rural or non-rural areas.

Rural Energy For America Program (REAP) – Nebraska
Program Fact Sheet

Recommended Reading
USDA invests more than $172M in building rural Nebraska prosperity in 2019, Columbus Telegram More than $1.1 million was invested in 37 energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy development assistance projects through the Rural Energy for America Program.

Lincoln Journal Star Letter: Commit to clean energy

Written by Alison Krohn

The City of Lincoln and Lincoln Electric System have taken steps towards a sustainable future through multiple efforts. The Lincoln Environmental Action Plan (2017-2018) calls for a 25% reduction in carbon emissions by 2025 while increasing the use of renewable energy 50%.

LES offers several incentives for renewable energy generation and energy efficiency improvements. The utility obtains approximately 40% of its distributed power from renewable sources. But are these goals and incentives enough? Continue reading here.

Photo: Telesis Inc’s solar array on top of the former Meadow Gold Dairy House at Seventh and M Streets in Lincoln’s historic Haymarket.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

FEATURED RESOURCE: LOW-INCOME SOLAR POLICY GUIDE

Best Practices for Utility Ownership
In considering the roles utilities can and should play in making solar available for low-income households and underserved communities, Principles and Recommendations for Utility Participation in Solar Programs for Low-Income Customers from the Environmental Law & Policy Center, GRID Alternatives, and Vote Solar outlines three interrelated sets of guidelines and considerations for policy makers and regulators to review.

NEBRASKA GRID INFRASTRUCTURE NEWS

USDA Invests $8.2 Million For KBR Rural Public Power District, USDA News Release
The power district serves 4,847 customers over 2,604 miles of line in five counties in north central Nebraska.

APPA ANNUAL REPORT

Wind, solar, natural gas dominate capacity in development, American Public Power Association
Wind, solar, and natural gas are the three dominant sources in the development pipeline for electricity generation in the US, according to a report from the American Public Power Association. America’s Electricity Generating Capacity, 2020 Update is the Association’s 14th annual look at the country’s current and future capacity. Wind, natural gas, and solar projects account for 94% of all capacity under construction, which is consistent with additions over the past five years, of which 97% came from these three resources.

ENERGY STORAGE

US Storage Industry Achieved Biggest-Ever Quarter and Year in 2019, Greentech Media
“Storage is being deployed all across the country now, at megawatt-scale, in more than half of U.S. states,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of the Energy Storage Association. Eight states now contain utility-scale storage facilities adding up to more than 50 megawatts. Another 11 states operate more than 10 megawatts each. Only 15 states have yet to adopt any advanced storage in front of the meter, according to WoodMac’s data. Overall, U.S. storage installations are expected to nearly triple in 2020 and more than double in 2021. Residential numbers, in particular, will triple this year compared to last year.

NEW 500-WATT SOLAR PANELS

How the new generation of 500 watt panels will shape the solar industry, PV Magazine
There are two solar module manufacturers, Risen Energy and Trina Solar, that have unveiled first-of-their kind 500W, 50-cell, PV modules. “For applications where you have a lot of area, particularly commercial and especially utility-scale, it’s really significant,” CEO of Cinnamon Energy Systems Barry Cinnamon told pv magazine. “You could just use fewer modules, it reduces handling costs and overall balance-of-system costs go down.” If there are less modules needed to reach the capacity specifications of a project, that means overall project costs will go down as these modules become economically viable. A significant area that will see cost reduction will come from the racking and trackers.

NREL’S FREE DATABASE

WattBuy to automate and expand NREL’s utility rate database, PV Magazine
With this new, free database, WattBuy can help residential homeowners more accurately calculate the return on investment (ROI) on a solar and/or solar-plus-storage system and make a more informed decision, Hood said. For solar financiers and energy efficiency companies, the new data will be useful for targeting new markets and for tracking projects’ ROI, he added.

EV NEWS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Project developers can secure cash from new IRENA funding pot, PV Magazine
The Climate Investment Platform launched by three multilateral bodies in September is now open for business and renewables companies in developing nations could qualify for help with clean energy facilities, renewables-related grid improvements and energy efficiency schemes.

Press Release: USDA Invests $276 Million in Rural Electric Infrastructure

USDA’s $276 million investment will build nearly 1,000 miles of line and improve 733 miles of line to meet current and future needs of rural businesses and residents. It will also support $65 million in smart grid technologies to help rural electric utilities reduce outages and integrate new systems.

Smart grid includes technological enhancements such as metering, substation automation, computer applications, two-way communications and geospatial information systems.

Investments are being made in Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Virginia. The loan guarantees are being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Electric Program, which is the successor to the Rural Electrification Administration. Read the entire release here.

 Electric Loans – USDA Rural Development (PDF)

Central City Community Solar Garden, First of Its Kind

USDA Rural Development News Release – Nebraska

Community leaders in Central City expressed interest in making their community a trailblazer in clean energy by organizing a community solar garden. The project was kick-started by Mesner Development Company and their donation of a neutral site on which other Central City businesses could construct solar panels to offset their energy usage. Continue reading.

Photo: Central City Administrator Chris Anderson (left) and Mesner Development’s Cliff Mesner

MORE USDA NEWS

New round of Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant applications now open

Hammond Farm.1

The Rural Energy for America Program provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.

Who may apply?
Agricultural producers with at least 50% of gross income coming from agricultural operations, and small businesses in eligible rural areas.

Deadlines
Grants of $20,000 or less: October 31, 2016 and March 31, 2017.
Unrestricted Grants (up to $500,000): March 31, 2017.
Loan Guarantees are completed continuously throughout the year.

Program Fact Sheet (PDF) 

NEBRASKA RURAL DEVELOPMENT ENERGY COORDINATOR
Jeff Carpenter, USDA Rural Development, 100 Centennial Mall North, Suite 308 Lincoln, NE 68508
402) 437-5554
jeff.carpenter@ne.usda.gov
http://www.rd.usda.gov/ne

ENERGY AUDIT GRANTS
An energy audit is required for a REAP application. The Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) at UNL conducts energy audits to meet USDA Rural Development grant and/or guaranteed loan application requirements. Energy audits can be conducted at any time by Nebraska MEP staff but must be completed in advance of USDA application submission deadlines. The program’s focus is on areas where local electric utility providers do not offer free audits. Nebraska MEP, which received an Energy Audit Program grant from USDA Rural Development, will pay 75% of the cost of an audit. Applicants will be required to pay 25% of the cost.

MEP CONTACT
Matthew Jorgensen
Project Specialist
Nebraska MEP
(308) 293-5884
mjorgensen@unl.edu

Photo: Hammond Farm in Nebraska. Credit: Matt Ryerson, Lincoln Journal Star