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USDA commits $23 million to smart grids in rural areas

Iain Morris
September 16, 2014

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced plans to invest more than $518 million in improving the delivery of electric power in rural communities across 15 states, with $23 million of the funding earmarked for the rollout of smart grid technologies.

The investments are to form part of the $50 billion the USDA claims to have funneled into infrastructure improvements since 2009.

“We must invest in America’s infrastructure to promote sustainable economic development in our rural and urban communities,’ said Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, during a White House summit on infrastructure financing. “Enhancements to the nation’s electric grid make a huge difference for communities across the country and support President Obama's efforts to build a stronger rural economy.”

The USDA says the use of smart grid services will lead to a more efficient electric system, with technologies like automated meter reading and load management automation allowing for more efficient control over the use of power to better meet customer needs.

The investments are to come from the USDA’s Rural Utilities Services (RUS), which is also responsible for programs aimed at improving the provision of broadband, water and wastewater services in rural areas.

Authorities say the loan guarantees will build or improve a total of 5,600 miles of line in rural areas.

In New Mexico, for instance, some $518,400 of a $14.1 million loan will go on smart grid rollout, while Georgia’s Carroll Electric Membership Corporation (Carrollton) is to spend $93,000 of a $20.6 million loan on smart grid technology.
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