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State of Renewable Energy Financing for Coops

This post is a repost from CFC’s Solutions News Bulletin, Sept. 24, 2012, Vol. 14, No. 36.

At the September board meeting of the National Renewables Cooperative Organization (NRCO), John List, CFC senior vice president, Member Services, discussed the funding behind current and future renewable energy projects. The regularly scheduled meeting was hosted by Indianapolis, Ind.-based Wabash Valley Power.

In 2011, 15 generation and transmission cooperatives reported generating or purchasing renewable energy, according to List. Purchases made up 90.3 percent of the total renewable energy supplied, which accounted for 4.6 percent of total MWh sold by the group.

“NRCO invited CFC to provide a national overview of renewable energy projects, given our involvement in lending and the data we have access to,” List said. “Although the percentage of renewable energy supplied by G&Ts may seem relatively small, a number of projects in planning or construction phases will boost those numbers over time.”

Since 2008, CFC has provided funding for more than 60 electric cooperative renewable projects in 22 states. The majority of CFC-funded projects are biomass (41 percent); solar projects make up 25 percent of funding and wind projects make up 13 percent. The remainder is spread between hydropower, landfill gas and geothermal projects (see chart).

CFC is able to support renewable energy projects through several financing options, including CFC bridge loans to permanent financing, syndicated credit facilities and New Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (NCREBs). Although no new NCREB allocations are currently planned by Congress, an estimated $200 million in unused funds from previous allocations could become available to electric cooperatives.

“We’ve seen several co-ops initiate renewable projects in order to meet state renewable portfolio standards,” List said. “The appeal goes beyond that, however. These projects tend to be popular in communities, create local construction jobs and permanent jobs, and help create a more diverse generation portfolio.”

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