Vilsack announces funds to improve rural electric service


August 9th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

U-S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today (Thursday), announced that rural electric utilities in 18 states will receive loan guarantees to make improvements to electric lines, transmission facilities and to reduce peak electric loads by deploying smart grid technologies. Vilsack said “Maintaining and upgrading rural electric systems improves system reliability, creates jobs and supports economic development. With these loans, we are continuing to help cooperatives provide reliable service to rural residents. A significant portion of this funding will go to smart grid technologies, helping consumers lower their electric bills and reducing peak demand for producers.”

Today’s announcement includes support for nearly $29 million in smart grid projects. In all, USDA is investing more than $420 million in rural electric infrastructure. Included among the utilities slated to receive USDA funding, is the Sioux City-based Southwestern Electric Cooperative, Inc, which will receive just over $39-million.  The funds will be used to serve over 1,400 consumers, build and improve 618 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $3,585,806 in smart grid projects.

The funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement. The money is being provided by USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS). The loans help electric utilities upgrade, expand, maintain and replace rural America’s electric infrastructure.