Biden Uplifts New ERA Program Supporting Rural Economic Development, Clean Energy


NASHVILLE, TENN. – This week, President Biden outlined the path forward for a $9.7 billion competitive grant program called “Empowering Rural America”–or the “New ERA” program–designed to bring good-paying jobs, investment, and clean energy to rural communities.

In video remarks before the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Biden described the New ERA program as “the biggest investment in rural co-ops since the New Deal.” Made possible through the Inflation Reduction Act, New ERA will advance a diverse range of clean energy projects, including renewable energy generation, battery storage, transmission, and energy efficiency programs.

Under the IRA, individual utilities may apply for up to $970 million in direct support, including both grants and low-cost loans for a wide range of clean energy programs. Rural utility companies will be able to find clean energy portfolios that work for their customers, benefiting from low-cost financing options and grants that can cover a quarter of their initial expenses.

Biden announced that USDA will begin accepting applications for the program in the spring. At the Nashville meeting, USDA distributed flyers encouraging utilities to start planning for the grants and loans, calling these “unprecedented incentives to expand clean energy, transform rural power production, generate jobs, and spur economic growth.” 

Interested applicants can visit USDA’s website for more information.

In response, Sierra Club Senior Advisor for Strategic Research and Development Jeremy Fisher released the following statement:

“New ERA represents one of the largest singular investments that America has made in rural energy, and it has the potential to position rural cooperatives as clean energy leaders, rather than observers. This is a once in a generation opportunity, and we are glad to see President Biden uplifting this critical program and the important role rural cooperatives and communities play in the clean energy transition.

“We’re also pleased to see USDA taking steps to ensure that this program is implemented equitably and effectively, and that it delivers on its promises to create good-paying jobs, keep cooperatives competitive, and bring the benefits of clean renewable energy to rural communities. Rural cooperatives should start planning now to scale up and take advantage of the historic opportunities found in the New ERA program.”

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit