USDA Rural Development on Nov. 22 issued a notice announcing amended scoring provisions for the Rural Energy for America Program. Applications will now receive priority points for advancing key priorities under the Biden-Harris administration.
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. Agricultural producers may also apply for new energy efficient equipment and new system loans for agricultural production and processing, according to USDA. Renewable biomass, including anaerobic digesters and biogas, wind, solar, small hydro-electric, ocean, geothermal, or hydrogen derived from any of those sources are among the renewable energy sources eligible for the program.
The USDA in July published a notice soliciting fiscal year (FY) 2022 grant, guaranteed loan, and combined grant and guaranteed loan applications under REAP. The deadlines to apply for grants were set for Oct. 31, 2021, and March 31, 2022. Applications for technical assistance grants are due Jan. 31, 2022, while applications for loan guarantees are accepted year-round.
The new notice issued by the USDA explains that all applications will be subject to updated scoring provisions regardless of which deadline they meet. Specifically, the agency said applications will receive 10 priority points if they meet any of three key priorities, including assist rural communities to recover economically from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in disadvantaged communities; ensure all rural residents have equitable access to Rural Development programs and benefits from Rural Development funded projects; and support investments in distressed communities.
Projects that do not qualify for the 10 priority points may be awarded up to five priority points for applications representing an under-represented technology; instances where selection of the application would help achieve geographic diversity; or for applicants who are a member of an unserved or underserved population.
A full copy of the Nov. 22 notice is available on the Federal Register website.