USDA increases funding for rural electric co-operatives

22 Jun 2015

US agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack announced plans to invest in the nation’s electric grid over the next 12 months. The initiative is aimed at modernising the country’s rural electric grid and will benefit six rural electric co-operatives.

The US Department for Agriculture (USDA) will invest $250m in smart grid equipment deployment. The agriculture secretary also said that $106m in electric loans would be provided through the USDA Rural Development for technologies such as load management and automatic meter reading.

Blue Grass Energy Cooperative Corporation will be receiving a loan guarantee of nearly $38m. This will enable the rural electric co-op to build more than 152 miles of line. In addition, it will also use $2.7 million for smart grid technologies, including automated meter reading and load management automation.

In Kansas, Nemaha-Marshall Electric Cooperative Association will receive $7.64m to build 35 miles of new distribution line and make other system improvements. Another $976,000 will be used for advanced meter deployment.

With $7.694 from USDA, the Tongue River Electric Cooperative of Montana will build 21 miles of new distribution line, make improvements to 35 miles of existing distribution line, and make other system improvements. The loan also includes $660,000 for advanced meter deployment.

A further $6m will be allocated to KEM Electric Cooperative in North Dakota, which will be used to build 17 miles of new distribution line, make improvements to 118 miles of existing distribution line, and make other system changes. The co-op will also use $50,460 for advanced meter deployment.

Another co-operative from the state, Cavalier Rural Electric Cooperative will benefit from $8.1m in funding that will be used to build 28 miles of new distribution line and make system improvements. In Virginia and West Virginia Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative is receiving $4.4m to build 81 miles of new distribution line, make improvements to 47 miles of existing distribution line and make other improvements.

Since 2009, USDA has invested almost $31 billion in rural electric systems, including more than $1 billion in renewable energy projects. Investing in rural electric co-operatives is part of President Obama’s plan for rural America, which aims to strengthen the country’s economy, small towns and rural communities.

Photo: US agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack

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