Electric co-operatives in America have been given more than $100m in loans to build or improve 1,000 miles of lines across four states.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement on behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture. “We commend rural electric co-operative utilities nationwide as we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration,” he said. “Investments we make to provide rural communities with electricity are critical to our nation’s economy. Our commitment to rural electricity has powered our growing agricultural exports, a burgeoning bio-economy and the quality of life for rural Americans.”
The four loans include $9m for smart grid improvements. In Indiana, Johnson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation will use a $14m loan to build or improve 345 miles of line and make other system improvements, including $4.8m for smart grid projects.
Thumb Electric Cooperative of Michigan will use a $25m loan to build or improve 93 miles of line and make other system improvements, including a $2.7m smart grid investment.
In North Dakota, Slope Electric Cooperative, Inc. has been selected to receive a $12.5m loan to work on 66 miles of line and make other system improvements, including $432,000 for smart grid technologies.
South Carolina’s Santee Electric Cooperative, Inc. is receiving $54.8m for 605 miles of line for residential and business customers. The loan also includes $3m for storm damage restoration.
USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, which funds utility infrastructure in rural areas, is the successor to the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), which was created by then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on May 11, 1935. Congress approved statutory authority for the REA on May 20, 1936. The agency became part of USDA in 1939.
The Rural Utilities Service awarded $2.4 billion in electric loans in 2014 to help 4.6 million rural residents receive improved electric service. Since 2009, USDA has invested almost $31bn in rural electric systems, including more than $1bn in renewable energy projects.
“While the country suffered in the Great Depression, President Roosevelt led a national commitment to bringing power to rural America,” Mr Vilsack added. “That commitment helped make America the breadbasket of the world and the most productive country in history. USDA’s Rural Utilities Service is honouring that commitment by taking on today’s challenges, including smart grid technology and advanced telecommunications and broadband access.”