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USDA Provides $3.6 Billion for Electric Projects in 31 States

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Source: Smart Grid Observer

November 3, 2016 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on October 26 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing $3.6 billion in loans to fund 82 electric projects in 31 states. These loans will finance infrastructure upgrades, create jobs and improve system operations for rural electric customers nationwide.

'For 80 years, rural electric utilities have provided reliable and affordable electricity to help rural communities increase productivity and build stronger economies,' Vilsack said. 'These loans will help them continue to do that. The utilities and cooperatives will use some of the money to finance energy efficiency projects, renewable fuel systems and smart grid technologies to increase our energy independence and improve rural electric infrastructure.'

The $3.6 billion will build or improve 12,500 miles of transmission and distribution line. It includes $216 million for smart grid technologies, $35 million for renewable energy, $26 million for environmental improvements, and nearly $1.8 million for energy efficiency. The loans are being provided through the Electric Program of the Rural Utilities Service, the successor to the Rural Electrification Administration. Eighty years ago this spring, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the law that charged USDA to provide electric power to rural America. The Electric Program makes loans and loan guarantees to non-profit and cooperative associations, public bodies and other utilities.

In addition to the recent announcement, since 2009, USDA has invested $38 billion in electric loans and more than $1 billion for smart grid technologies, helping build more than 185,000 miles of transmission and distribution. Smart grid technology increases the reliability of electric power by helping utilities better manage the electric grid to improve operational efficiencies. It includes metering, substation automation, computer applications, two-way communications, geospatial information systems and other improvements.

Improvements to rural electric utility systems help to provide reliable and affordable electricity to rural customers, increasing efficiencies, reducing carbon emissions and improving the quality of life in rural areas. To read more about USDA's investments in renewable energy and the bio-based economy, visit USDA's entry on Medium.com, Powering America with a More Sustainable Energy Future.

In Missouri, United Electric Cooperative is receiving a $28 million loan to build or improve 164 miles of line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $3.5 million for smart grid projects. Missouri is receiving a total of $108 million for 3 projects that will build or improve over 300 miles of line and invest over $42 million in smart grid technologies to improve system resilience and efficiency.

Dairyland Power Cooperative, which is located in Wisconsin and serves customers in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota, will use an $87 million loan to make system improvements, including building and improving 12 miles of line. The cooperative will use nearly $3.8 million for smart grid technology, increasing the efficiency of system operations.

Western Iowa Power Cooperative will use a $525,000 loan to build a solar photovoltaic system to supplement power needs and provide smart grid technology.

In Georgia, Oglethorpe Power Corporation will use a $448 million loan for generation improvements for 41 rural electric cooperative utilities across the state. In Alabama, Dixie Electric Cooperative will use $2.25 million of its $25.8 million loan for smart grid technologies and $684,000 for energy efficiency projects.

The recent announcement is part of USDA's celebration of National Cooperative Month throughout October. This year's theme is 'Cooperatives Build.' Secretary Vilsack kicked off the month-long celebration with an official proclamation.

To read more about USDA's investments in rural America, visit USDA's entry on Medium.com, Rural America Is Back in Business.

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