Rural Spotlight

Federal Investment in Our Renewable Energy Future

For years, rural communities and the rural electric cooperatives that serve them have been waiting for substantial new investment in rural energy systems. With the growing threat of the climate crisis and aging infrastructure, the need for investment is greater now than ever. 

Rural electric cooperatives were created as a component of the New Deal through the Rural Electrification Act of 1936. The program made federal resources available for rural communities to self-organize cooperative utilities to electrify the countryside. Between 1936 and 1950, electric cooperatives brought rural communities from just 10% electrification to nearly universal electrification — one of the most successful federal projects in our nation’s history. This historic project that improved the lives of millions of rural Americans and lifted many out of poverty was won by a national coalition of rural progressives pushing for investments in their communities.

Nearly a century later, in the midst of the simultaneous crises of COVID-19, climate change, and rural economic collapse, a national coalition once again rose to the challenge and demanded substantial investment in rural energy systems. The Rural Power Coalition, armed with a policy platform created by and for rural advocates, won the largest investment in rural electric systems since the New Deal. New programs and incentives extended by the Inflation Reduction Act will leverage tens of billions of dollars in investment in rural electric cooperatives and rural communities, creating 90,000 jobs, reducing energy costs by up to 20%, and eliminating 62 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next ten years. This moment was accomplished by over a decade of on-the-ground organizing, movement-led research, and coalition building with a dedicated group of rural organizers.

Our success is one of many major victories that rural leaders and rural communities fought for and won in the Inflation Reduction Act. Rural progressives are fighting in small towns and rural communities, state legislatures, and Washington, D.C., for the future we deserve. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, and sometimes we win BIG.

Erik Hatlestad, CURE