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USDA invests $345m to improve rural electricity services

Steve Rogerson
August 21, 2018
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $345.5m in 20 infrastructure projects to improve rural electric service in 14 states.
“Delivering reliable and affordable electricity to power rural America will help lay the groundwork for increased rural prosperity and economic opportunity,” said agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue. “USDA is partnering with rural electric utilities and cooperatives so they can continue to invest in infrastructure improvements to provide electric power to those who live and work in rural areas.”
USDA is making the investments through the electric infrastructure loan programme. This programme helps finance generation, transmission and distribution projects; system improvements; and energy conservation projects in communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
The loans include $7.9m for smart grid technology. This includes computer applications, two-way communications, geospatial information systems and other tools to increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power systems.
In Colorado, the San Isabel Electric Association is receiving a $15.8m loan to build 100km of line and improve 230km to serve consumers in Huerfano, Las Animas, Pueblo, Custer, Otero and Costilla counties. The loan includes $752,021 for smart grid projects.
Minnesota’s Goodhue County Electric Cooperative Association will use a $7.75m loan to construct 45km of line and improve 115km. The loan includes $315,000 for smart grid projects. Goodhue’s service territory is predominantly agricultural. Most non-farm employment is associated with agricultural and food processing activities.
In Georgia, Amicalola Electric Membership Corporation will use a $61.2m loan to build 485km of line and improve 180km. The loan includes $64,000 for smart grid projects. Agriculture and tourism are the major industries in Amicalola’s service territory.
USDA is announcing investments in rural communities in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
In April 2017, US president Donald Trump established an interagency task force on agriculture and 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 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 services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.