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As Congress and presidential candidates trade accusations over immigration reform, advocates and experts urge caution in spreading misinformation; Alabama takes new action IVF policy following controversial court decision; and central states urge caution with wildfires brewing.

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Congress reaches a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown again. Arizona Republicans want to ensure Trump remains on their state ballot and Senate Democrats reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

Using federal incentives, rural electric co-ops make clean 'power grab'

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Thursday, November 30, 2023   

Utilities and government agencies in the U.S. are carrying out plans to transition to cleaner electricity sources. To avoid being left behind, rural communities, including in Minnesota, are leveraging federal resources to expand their power portfolios.

The topic was part of a recent congressional briefing hosted by the Rural Power Coalition.

Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., took part, saying investments from the Inflation Reduction Act provide grants and loans to rural electric co-ops, so they can purchase or develop renewable energy systems. There is also funding for municipal utilities and tribal governments.

"These voluntary, technology-neutral programs put rural electricity providers on the path to unleash clean energy for the communities that they serve in a way that works best for them," Smith explained.

Smith noted recent applications are likely to surpass available funds, underscoring strong demand from smaller communities to diversify energy sources. Rural electric co-ops have had a harder time competing with investor-owned utilities in the decarbonization movement, in part because of being locked into coal contracts. In Minnesota, co-ops serve roughly one-third of the state.

Gabriel Chan, associate professor of public policy at the University of Minnesota and co-director of the Electric Cooperative Innovation Center, spoke in the briefing. He said the extra federal support allows co-ops to scale up clean energy production while still managing their existing debt.

"This ensures that the energy transition can move at a rapid pace," Chan pointed out. "While also ensuring that the transition happens on an affordable and reliable path."

He suggested keeping costs lower for the energy transition in rural areas puts their local economies in a better position. According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, such operations serve more than 90% of counties experiencing persistent poverty.

Disclosure: The Rural Power Coalition contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Energy Policy, Environment, and Rural/Farming Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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