(Released 22 October 2015) Washington, D.C. - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced nearly $2.3 billion in loans to build and improve rural electric infrastructure in 31 states.
"Improving our rural electric utility systems will help us continue to provide reliable and affordable electricity to rural customers," Vilsack said. "By financing these improvements, USDA helps increase efficiencies, reduce carbon emissions and improve the quality of life in rural areas."
USDA is awarding loans to 77 utilities and cooperatives in 31 states. The funding includes more than $108 million for smart grid technology, $41 million for renewable energy improvements and $9 million for storm damage repairs. These loans will help build or improve 12,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines.
The funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development's Electric Program, which makes loans and loan guarantees to non-profit and cooperative associations, public bodies and other utilities, primarily for electric distribution in rural areas.
For example, Midwest Energy Cooperative in Michigan, which serves more than 35,000 customers in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, is receiving a $59 million loan to improve service to its customers. It will use $33 million to finance smart grid technologies.
Smart grid increases the reliability of electric power by helping utilities better manage the electric grid to improve operational efficiencies. It includes metering, substation automation, computer applications, two-way communications, geospatial information systems and other improvements.
In Iowa, USDA is providing a $59.8 million loan to the Central Iowa Power Corporation to fund more than 126 miles of new or upgraded power lines. The utility distributes power to more than 125,000 residential customers and 17,000 businesses in 51 Iowa counties.
The Cornelius, N.C., firm O2 EMC Portfolio 1, LLC is receiving three loans totaling nearly $23 million to build several solar farms. The company develops, owns and operates solar farms across the Southeast.
Funding of each award announced today is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.
Since 2009, USDA has funded $34 billion in electric loans and more than $1 billion for smart grid technologies. This assistance has helped build more than 185,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines serving approximately 8.5 million rural customers.
USDA has been committed to improving the production and transmission of electricity in rural communities since the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration in 1935.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.