USDA secretary announces energy efficiency loan program

The Associated Press

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Vermont officials announced a $46 million loan guarantee program that will help residents and small businesses improve energy efficiency.

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Vermont officials on Friday announced a $46 million loan guarantee program that will help residents and small businesses improve energy efficiency.

The project will be carried out by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, which will provide long-term, low-interest loans to individuals, small businesses and local governments to support projects such as weatherization improvements, high efficiency lighting or conversion to renewable sources like solar power.

The project announced in Burlington is the largest Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program since the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service launched it in December 2013.

"This loan will reduce barriers to energy investments by lowering the upfront costs, spreading these costs over 20 years and by making financing more available," Vilsack said. "It also will help residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial consumers in rural Vermont reduceenergy use and meet state and national energy goals."

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and Gov. Peter Shumlin, both Democrats, joined Vilsack at the announcement.

The USDA program has supported similar projects in Arkansas and North Carolina.

The program is intended to benefit rural Vermont residents, businesses and communities. Officials say reducing energy costs could help farmers and food manufacturers remain competitive.

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