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USDA invests $181m to upgrade rural electricity

Steve Rogerson
August 21, 2019
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $181m to upgrade rural electric systems in ten states. The funding includes $7.7m to finance smart grid technologies that improve system operations and monitor grid security.
“For more than eight decades, USDA has been a strong partner to rural communities in building and expanding electric infrastructure,” said USDA’s rural utilities service administrator Chad Rupe. “USDA is committed to investing in essential infrastructure upgrades that improve the quality of life in rural communities and help grow the rural economy.”
USDA is providing financing for 12 projects in Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin through an electric loan programme. The funding will help build and improve 2180km of line to improve electric reliability and resilience in rural areas.
Among the loans announced, Ohio’s Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative is receiving $19.7m to build and improve 155km of line. The upgrades will serve 600 new customers. Buckeye also will invest $327,000 in smart grid technologies to increase system efficiency and resilience. It serves more than 18,600 customers over 4000km of line in nine counties in eastern Ohio.
The Licking Valley Rural Electric Cooperative in West Liberty, Kentucky, is also receiving a $19.7m loan. It will build and upgrade 120km of line and install nearly $338,000 in smart grid technologies. These investments will serve 17,300 residential and business consumers over 3335km of line in Breathitt, Elliot, Lee, Magoffin, Menifee, Morgan, Rowan and Wolfe counties.
USDA says it will make additional funding announcements in coming weeks. The US Congress appropriated $5.5bn for USDA’s electric loan programme in fiscal year 2019.
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, US secretary of agriculture Sonny 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 provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements, business development, housing, community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care, and high-speed internet access in rural areas.