The passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) represents the biggest investment into the country’s infrastructure since the 1930s. Great River Energy and its 27 member-owner cooperatives have been working to take advantage of the more than $435 billion offered in federal funding through these investments.
Great River Energy, along with a majority of its member-owners, recently filed a Letter of Interest with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to participate in its Empowering Rural America (New ERA) program to become eligible for nearly $1 billion in federal funds to advance the work of Minnesota’s electric cooperatives in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and modernizing the region’s power grid.
“The New Era program is a historic, once-in-a-generation investment into the country’s generation and transmission infrastructure,” said Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Corporate and Member Services Officer Lisa Orpen. “The consortium made up of our member-owners allowed us to collaborate and identify worthy projects that accelerate greenhouse gas emission reductions, while keeping electricity reliable and affordable.”
The $9.7 billion New ERA program was created as part of the IRA with the goal of helping rural America transition to cleaner, reliable and more affordable electricity. Great River Energy and its member-owners serves roughly 70% of Minnesota, much of which is in rural areas. New ERA funding will allow Great River Energy’s member-owners to invest in renewable energy and new smart grid technologies.
“This was a collaborative effort involving our membership. The result is a portfolio of innovative projects that will help us achieve important goals for affordability and environmental progress.”— Jeff Haase, Great River Energy’s director of member services, distributed energy resources and end-use strategy
The USDA is currently reviewing 157 applications encompassing 750 projects from electric co-ops across the country and determining which proposals will move forward in the process.
“The demand for the New ERA program illustrates the innovative spirit of electric cooperatives as they explore new ways to meet tomorrow’s energy needs and prepare for a future that depends on electricity to power more of the economy,” said Jim Matheson CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which represents the interests of all U.S. electric cooperatives.
Great River Energy is also looking at other federal funding opportunities. The cooperative created a cross-functional team that is working to represent Great River Energy as a whole and is exploring all opportunities to determine which projects best suit the membership. These possible projects come in the areas of transmission, distribution, beneficial electrification, electric vehicles and more.
Great River Energy is currently seeking a $132 million project award to improve grid resilience across a broad swath of its transmission system, with a specific focus on protecting against impacts of wildfires and ice and wind storms.
As more funding become available, Great River Energy will continue to collaborate with its member-owners to find the best opportunities and projects that will bring the most benefit to the service territory.