Program Description

The Electric Program provides capital and leadership to maintain, expand, upgrade and modernize America's vast rural electric infrastructure. The loans and loan guarantees finance the construction or improvement of electric distribution, transmission and generation facilities in rural areas. The Electric Program also provides funding to support demand-side management, energy efficiency and conservation programs, and on-and off-grid renewable energy systems.

General Program Requirements

The electric program makes insured loans and loan guarantees to nonprofit and cooperative associations, public bodies, and other utilities. Insured loans primarily finance the construction of electric distribution facilities in rural areas. The guaranteed loan program has been expanded and is now available to finance generation, transmission, and distribution facilities. The loans and loan guarantees finance the construction of electric distribution, transmission, and generation facilities, including system improvements and replacement required to furnish and improve electric service in rural areas, as well as demand side management, energy conservation programs, and on-grid and off-grid renewable energy systems.

The law requires the consideration of several factors to determine whether an area qualifies as rural for the purposes of this program.

There is no maximum grant amount for enterprise type grants; however, smaller requests are given higher priority. Generally, grants range from $10,000 up to $500,000. There is no cost sharing requirement. Opportunity type grant funding is limited to a maximum award of $50,000 for unreserved funds. Total opportunity type grant funding is limited statutorily to up to 10% of the total RBDG annual funding.

How may funds be used?

Enterprise type grant funds must be used on projects to benefit small and emerging businesses in rural areas as specified in the grant application. Uses may include:

  • Training and technical assistance, such as project planning, business counseling/training, market research, feasibility studies, professional/technical reports, or product/service improvements
  • Acquisition or development of land, easements, or rights of way; construction, conversion, renovation, of buildings, plants, machinery, equipment, access streets and roads, parking areas, utilities
  • Pollution control and abatement
  • Capitalization of revolving loan funds including funds that will make loans for start-ups and working capital
  • Distance adult learning for job training and advancement
  • Rural transportation improvement
  • Community economic development
  • Technology-based economic development
  • Feasibility studies and business plans
  • Leadership and entrepreneur training
  • Rural business incubators
  • Long-term business strategic planning

Opportunity type grant funding must be used for projects in rural areas and they can be used for:

  • Community economic development
  • Technology-based economic development
  • Feasibility studies and business plans
  • Leadership and entrepreneur training
  • Rural business incubators
  • Long-term business strategic planning

Your Next Steps

The following information will lead you to the next steps to apply for this program.

Application Process

Applications for these programs are accepted year-round through a General Field Representative (GFR).

Program Resources are available online (i.e. forms, guidance, certifications) at

How are applications evaluated for competitive funding?

RBDG applications compete at the state office level, which are dependent on appropriations.

All applications are evaluated based on:

  • Evidence showing job creation to occur with local businesses;
  • Percent of nonfederal funding committed to the project;
  • Economic need in the area to be served;
  • Consistency with local economic development priorities;
  • Experience of the grantee with similar efforts

Program Contact Information

Rural Electric Program
General Field Representative for your area
(202) 720-0848

Additional Information

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number10.85
Current Method of Tribal EligibilityProgram not specific to American Indians and Alaska Natives, but they are eligible
Can the funding from the program be renewedNo
Funding TypeDiscretionary
Entities Eligible for Grant AssistanceFederally Recognized Tribes and Tribal Organizations, Other Tribal and Native Entities, Non-Tribal Entities
Matching Funds RequiredNo
Number of People Served by this Program (Approximate)In 2015, 7,989 consumers were served.
Length of ProgramDistribution of loans and loan guarantees are approved generally on an average of 3 to 6 months as funding becomes available. Loan guarantees for transmission and generation projects are approved generally on an average of 6 to 12 months. Larger projects may take longer. For repayment, may not exceed the useful life of the facility being financed, with a maximum repayment schedule of 35 years.
Recurring Base Funding for TribesNo
Do Tribes compete with other entities for funding from the program?Federally recognized tribes, Tribal organizations, Other native organizations, State recognized tribes, Native Hawaiian entities, Other Native American Pacific Islander entities, States, U.S. Territories, U.S. local governments, Private for-profit entities, Private non-profit entities
Tribes Funded by this ProgramIn 2015, eight entities received funding.

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