USDA wants to hear from the public on its plans to create a new Rural Renewable Energy Pilot Program.

The fiscal 2021 spending gives USDA $10 million for a pilot program that would provide financial help to rural communities to develop renewable energy. “The new program will aim to support the nation’s critical energy needs, and combat climate change while advancing environmental justice, racial equity, and economic opportunity through the use of distributed energy technologies, innovations, and/or solutions,” the department said in a release. More information is available in a March 30 Federal Register notice.

“When we invest in creating new sources of renewable energy, we invest in rebuilding the middle class by creating good-paying jobs in rural America,” Justin Maxon, USDA deputy undersecretary for Rural Development, said. “To meet this goal, we must put rural communities at the heart of climate action and climate-smart solutions, and that begins with getting feedback from a broad, diverse set of voices from the start.”

Comments can be submitted by April 29 through an online docket. USDA also plans to hold a listening session from 2-4:30 p.m. ET on April 22.

Specifically, USDA is looking for input on the following topics:

  • Program purposes, goals, metrics, and standards;
  • Eligible applicants, participants, partners including but not limited to communities, residencies, industry, and commercial entities;
  • Eligible technologies including but not limited to generation, storage, controller, and grid;
  • Potential impact of the pilot program and renewable energy systems more broadly on each of the following: environmental justice, racial equity, and economic opportunity; and
  • Options to measure and maximize the benefits of renewable energy systems for environmental justice, racial equity, and economic opportunity in rural areas.

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