Budzinski Introduces Bipartisan Bill To Preserve Rural Star Energy Savings Program in 2023 Farm Bill

By Benjamin Cox on June 7, 2023 at 6:06pm

13th District Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski has joined House Democrats to reauthorize an energy savings program for rural communities.

Budzinski along with South Carolina Democrat Jim Clyburn ntroduced the Rural Energy Savings Act of 2023 to reauthorize the Rural Energy Savings Program in the 2023 Farm Bill. First included in the 2014 Farm Bill, the Rural Energy Savings Program provides interest-free loans to electric cooperatives and other utilities which they then lend to consumers to make affordable, energy efficiency improvements to their homes or businesses.

Budzinski says this bill will help combat some of the rising energy costs in rural communities, and it will be essential in making the transition to a clean energy economy while lowering costs for consumers.

Commonly referred to as “Rural Star,” the program is administered by the USDA Rural Utilities Service, which has made at least 37 RESP loan awards worth nearly $300 million to utilities in 18 states since 2016. Previously reauthorized in the 2018 Farm Bill with minimal changes, this current reauthorization effort seeks to make RESP more accessible and attractive for rural utilities and related entities. The current draft of the bill is set to open up the program to more rural families who do not qualify for weatherization assistance and lack the means to invest in energy improvements on their own.

Democrat Vermont Senator Peter Welch and Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski are expected to introduce companion legislation in the upper chamber of Congress.