The US Department of Agriculture says it has now provided a total of $269 million to fund the development of smart grids in America’s rural communities, beating its investment goal of $250 million.
The target formed part of President Obama’s plan to modernize the country’s electrical system, helping utilities to become more efficient and consumers to save money by reducing energy use in homes and businesses.
Through its Rural Utility Service, the USDA has now provided loan guarantees totalling $269 million in ten states, including Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Wyoming, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
“Grid modernization and deployment of ‘smart grid’ technology will increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power generation,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a statement. “Providing reliable, affordable electrical service contributes to stronger rural economies and is the backbone for a prosperous rural America. These loans will help ensure that rural areas can retain existing businesses, support new ones and have reliable, up-do-date infrastructure.”
Vilsack said the infrastructure investments would come at virtually no cost to the taxpayer, reducing the need for new power plants.
He also said that smart grid technologies would provide the foundation for new products and services, such as smartphone-controlled thermostats, that will help consumers to save money on their electricity bills in future.
Vilsack made the announcement on funding during a tour of North Carolina’s Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation, which received a guaranteed loan of $30,000,000 from the USDA to help extend its system by 52 miles and provide services to around 1,000 new member consumers.
Other beneficiaries in the state include Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation and Edgecombe-Martin County Electric Membership Corporation.
Brunswick has received a loan of $21,500,000 to build and improve 220 lines of distribution line and make other system improvements, while Edgecombe-Martin has been loaned $6.4 million. The firm, which is based in an area susceptible to hurricanes, plans to use about $1 million to install automatic meters.