USDA is investing $900 million to build, preserve or improve rural electric infrastructure across 16 states. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky made the announcement at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting and conference in New Orleans.
“Rural electric cooperatives have been the champions of rural electric infrastructure, the lifeblood of America’s heartland, in every state across the country since the Rural Electrification Administration’s efforts in the 1930s,” Censky said.
USDA is providing financing through the Electric Loan Program. It will help build and improve 2,743 miles of line to strengthen reliability in rural areas and will benefit 1.1 million rural residents and businesses. The loans include $17 million for investments in smart grid technology that uses digital communications to detect and react to local changes in electricity usage.
States receiving funding under today’s announcement are Arkansas, California, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota and Virginia.
Among the loans:
- The East Kentucky Power Cooperative is receiving a $347 million loan to make generation system improvements to enhance system reliability. Eastern Kentucky generates wholesale electricity and provides bulk transmission services. Its 16 distribution member cooperatives serve approximately 595,000 meters and more than 540,000 member-consumers in the eastern two-thirds of Kentucky. Its members serve 89 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
- The East River Electric Power Cooperative is receiving a $198 million loan to build substations, update substations, improve headquarter facilities and build and improve 604 miles of transmission line. The project also includes smart grid technologies, including 65 miles of fiber cable between substations. The cooperative provides power to 25 rural electric utilities that serve 41 counties in eastern South Dakota and 22 counties in western Minnesota.
- The Brunswick Electric Membership Corp., in Shallotte, N.C., is receiving a $78 million loan to connect 10,288 consumers, and build or improve 274 miles of line. The loan includes $3.5 million in smart grid technologies. Brunswick serves more than 93,000 customers over 6,814 miles of line in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus and Robeson counties in southeastern North Carolina.
- The Little River Electric Cooperative in Abbeville, S.C., is receiving a $16 million loan to connect 1,043 consumers, and build and improve 142 miles of line. This project includes $3.4 million in smart grid technologies. Little River serves 14,257 customers over 2,082 miles of line in Abbeville, Anderson, Greenwood and McCormick counties.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.