UPDATE 1-U.S. government to provide $1 billion for rural renewable energy
(Adds dateline, additional context on announcement)
By Leah Douglas
WASHINGTON, March 31 (Reuters) - Rural small businesses and farmers will be eligible to apply for $1 billion in grants to invest in clean energy beginning Saturday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the White House announced on Friday.
The money, funded by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), will be distributed through the USDA's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and is meant to further the Biden administration's efforts to cut climate-harming emissions across the American economy.
"Through this administration we are taking an approach that tries to expand the affordability of clean energy to folks living in every zip code," White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi said on a call with reporters.
The grant money can be used to install renewable energy systems - like solar panels, wind turbines, or biomass projects like anaerobic digesters that process animal manure to generate renewable fuels like biogas - or to make energy-efficient improvements, the USDA said.
USDA will allocate 20% of the funds to grant requests of $20,000 or less, the agency said.
The funded projects will create jobs, reduce emissions, and improve rural resiliency in the face of a changing climate, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the press call.
The IRA provided more than $2 billion for REAP, which the administration anticipates will fund projects for 41,500 farms and small businesses, according to the USDA website. (Reporting by Leah Douglas; Editing by Mark Porter and Aurora Ellis)