USDA announces funding to help rural residents in remote areas reduce energy costs

WASHINGTON, D.C., -Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding to help reduce energy costs for residents of remote rural areas where the current cost of producing electricity is extremely high. The funds are being provided through USDA's High Energy Cost Grant program. The announcement was made on the Secretary's behalf by Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager during the Four Corners Sustainable Furtures Tribal Summit in Flagstaff, Ariz. Two of the awards will be provided to Tribes in Arizona to help them reduce the cost of generating electrical power.

"In many rural areas, energy costs can be a significant part of household and business expenses. These grants will help home and business owners offset rising energy costs by financing energy efficiency and power generation improvements that will deliver energy more cost-effectively and help the environment," Vilsack said.

The program is administered by USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service. Recipients use funds to improve energy generation, transmission or distribution facilities that serve communities where the average residential cost for home energy exceeds 275 percent of the national average. Grants are available to businesses, non-profit entities, states, local governments and federally recognized Indian tribes.

Sacred Power Corporation, a private Native American-owned firm which serves communities in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, will receive funds to provide improved batteries for solar, wind and propane fueled generation systems that serve the homes of tribal members in remote areas. Dineh Cooperatives, Inc. of Arizona will receive funds for the Black Mesa Solar Project, which focuses on the use of solar energy as a viable solution to meet the energy needs of a remote portion of the Black Mesa and Pinon Chapters within Navajo Country, on the Navajo Reservation. This grant will focus on supplying energy to people in a community consisting mostly of elders who have minimal electricity needs, and their children and grandchildren who tend to require twice the power load. It will center on providing electricity to residents in homes that currently have no electrical service, and supplementing power to existing solar systems for other homes. These proposed systems will generate electricity utilizing photovoltaic solar systems and back-up generators.

The funding announced today totals more than $21 million. Funding for individual recipients is contingent upon their meeting the conditions of the grant agreement. These funds may not be used to pay utility bills, purchase fuel, or be used for the sole benefit of the applicant.

USDA High Energy Cost Grant recipients include -

Alaska Village Initiatives $443,779

Gwitchyaa Zhee Utility Company $3,500,000

Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority $1,000,000

Dineh Cooperatives Incorporated $1,352,000

Sacred Power Corporation $2,500,000 (Serving customers in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah)

Yurok Tribe $4,959,456

Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council $1,218,791

University of Maine $2,617,569

Marshalls Energy Company $2,317,388

Island Economic and Environmental Company $1,395,525

Sacred Power Corporation $395,000 (Serving the Lakota Reservations)

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