The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced plans to provide loan guarantees to rural electric cooperatives and utilities in 12 states, aimed at helping the organizations to improve their generation and transmission facilities and introduce smart-grid technologies.
“In his State of the Union Address last week, President Obama said that in America we have ‘an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair’ and these investments help to address our country’s infrastructure challenges,” said John Padalino, the USDA’s rural utilities acting administrator, at the annual meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in New Orleans. “Upgrading rural infrastructure sets the stage for economic development, because access to reliable, affordable electricity is essential to rural job creation.”
The USDA’s support includes more than $8 million in funding for smart-grid technologies, which are intended to improve the efficiency of the electric grid and help consumers to lower their electric bills by reducing energy usage.
Among the utilities set to benefit from the announcement are North Dakota’s Central Power Electric Cooperative (Minot, USA), Kansas’ Flint Hills Rural Electric Cooperative Association (Council Grove, Kansas) and Oklahoma’s Cotton Electric Cooperative (Walters, Oklahoma).
The Central Power Electric Cooperative plans to use a $33.7 million loan guarantee to build 141 miles of transmission line and make other system improvements, while the Flint Hills Rural Electric Cooperative Association is to benefit from an $11 million loan guarantee to build 108 miles of distribution line, with some $220,000 earmarked for smart-grid technologies.
Meanwhile, the Cotton Electric Cooperative is getting $24.8 million to build 229 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements, including $1.3 million for smart-grid investments.