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USDA invests $485m to upgrade rural electricity

Steve Rogerson
April 16, 2019
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $485m to upgrade rural electric systems and reduce energy costs. The funding includes nearly $7.1m for smart grid technologies that improve system operations and monitor grid security.
“Under the leadership of agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is a proud partner to utilities and cooperatives delivering reliable, affordable power to rural communities,” said Joel Baxley, acting assistant to the secretary for rural development. “These loans will enhance rural economic development and help improve the quality of life for people who live and work in rural America.”
USDA is providing financing through an electric loan programme to improve rural electric infrastructure in Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. These investments will help build or improve 4240km of line.
South Dakota’s Northern Electric Cooperative is receiving a $24.8m loan to build or improve 580km of line. The loan includes $351,000 to incorporate smart grid technologies such as computer applications, two-way M2M communications, geospatial information systems and other tools to increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power systems. Northern Electric serves more than 6300 consumers over 4200km of line in ten counties in north-eastern South Dakota and one county in southern North Dakota.
Missouri’s Central Electric Power Cooperative is receiving a $72m loan to finance electric distribution and transmission facilities. The upgrades will supply peak loads, conform to safety requirements, and improve the reliability and resiliency of the transmission system. Central Electric also will construct backup control centre facilities to ensure the continuity of operations in the event of catastrophe. It serves approximately 187,000 residential and business consumers across 57,000 square kilometres in 28 counties in central Missouri.
In April 2017, 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 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.