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USDA invests nearly $400m to improve electricity service

Steve Rogerson
October 3, 2018
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing a further $398.5m to improve rural electric services in 13 states, including money for a number of smart grid projects.
“Reliable and affordable electricity is undeniably a necessity in today’s world,” said assistant to the secretary for rural development Anne Hazlett. “Under the leadership of secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in keeping our rural communities connected to this essential infrastructure.”
For example, in Virginia, Southside Electric Cooperative will use a $47.7m loan to add 2578 customers, build 219km of line and make other system improvements. The loan includes $269,536 for smart grid projects. Southside, headquartered in Crewe, has approximately 13,280km of power line that provides service to 56,000 users in 18 counties and one independent city in south central Virginia.
Its customers are within commuting distance to the Richmond, Petersburg, Charlottesville, Lynchburg and Roanoke areas. Southside serves predominantly residential loads and a small percentage of large commercial loads, including a correctional facility, a meat processing plant, pipeline companies, a bearing manufacturing facility and several facilities engaged in the production of forestry products.
In Indiana, Marshall County REMC is receiving a $9.5m loan to build 18km of line, improve 95km and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $5.1m for smart grid projects. Marshall County provides electric service to 7200 users over 1720km of line in Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, Marshall, St. Joseph and Starke counties in northern Indiana. The economy of the service territory has historically relied on agriculture and agriculture-related industries.
In Colorado, San Miguel Power Association will use an $11m loan to build 330km of line, improve 75km and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $571,654 for smart grid projects. San Miguel is headquartered in Nucla. It serves 13,473 users through 6100km of line in Dolores, Hinsdale, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray, San Juan and Miguel counties.
These projects should help improve the quality of life in rural communities in Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
The investments USDA is making include nearly $43.7m for smart grid technology to increase system efficiencies. Smart grid includes computer applications, two-way M2M communications, geospatial information systems and other tools to increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power systems.
The department’s support for rural cooperatives and utilities underscores secretary Perdue’s priority to promote rural economic development by centring around three principles: infrastructure, partnerships and innovation. Investing in electric infrastructure has increased productivity and improved the quality of life in rural areas for nearly 80 years.
In April 2017, US president Donald Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture & Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Perdue presented the task force’s findings to Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.
USDA is making the investments through the Electric Infrastructure Loan Programme.