Powering Rural Montana and Lowering Energy Costs is Goal of Tester’s Bipartisan Bill

Senator Introduces Bill to Lower Energy Costs for More Than 400,000 Montanans, Improve Infrastructure for Rural Electric Co-ops

(U.S. Senate) – In an effort to lower energy costs and improve electric infrastructure in rural Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is reintroducing his Improving Rural Access to Power Act.

The bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, will increase access to capital for rural electric cooperatives so they can make improvements to the electric grid and make electricity more affordable for more than 400,000 Montanans.

“Whether it’s running a business, charging a computer, or simply keeping the lights on, Montanans need access to reliable, affordable power, no matter where they live,” Tester said. “This bill gives rural electric co-ops the tools to build out their infrastructure and better provide the electricity that everyone relies on, all while keeping money in customer’s wallets.”

“Rural electric cooperatives reach underserved areas far and wide providing dependable electricity to rural Kansans to power their homes, farms and small businesses,” Moran said. “This legislation would increase access to capital for rural electric providers so they can continue to serve these areas and update their infrastructure in the process, all while keeping the cost to consumers as low as possible. I urge my colleagues to support this sensible measure.”

There are 25 rural electric cooperatives in Montana that distribute energy to all 56 counties and serve nearly half of the state’s population. These consumer-owned businesses operate expansive power grids that includes more than 56,000 miles of distribution power lines.

Rural electric cooperatives have created their own lending associations to provide financial services and help facilitate loans to each individual cooperative to make upgrades and expansions to their local power grids.

Tester’s bill will specifically increase rural electric cooperatives’ access to capital by allowing the Federal Home Loan Bank to voluntarily purchase securities issued by qualified cooperative lending associations. This additional line of capital will help inject more funding into electric cooperatives, allowing them to make necessary investment upgrades across Montana.