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USDA provides $100m loans to make rural smart grid improvements in four states

Steve Rogerson
June 2, 2015
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is to provide more than $100m in loans to build or improve 1600km of electric transmission and distribution lines for rural electric cooperative utilities in four states, said US agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack. The four loans will include smart grid improvements.
"We commend rural electric cooperative utilities nationwide as we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration," Vilsack said. "Investments we make to provide rural communities with electricity are critical to our nation's economy. Our commitment to rural electricity has powered our growing agricultural exports, a burgeoning bio-economy and the quality of life for rural Americans."
In Indiana, Johnson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation will use a $14m loan to build or improve 555km of line and make other system improvements, including $4.8m for smart grid projects.
Thumb Electric Cooperative of Michigan will use a $25m loan to build or improve 150km of line and make other system improvements, including a $2.7m smart grid investment.
In North Dakota, Slope Electric Cooperative has been selected to receive a $12.5m loan to build or improve 106km of line and make other system improvements, including $432,000 for smart grid technologies.
South Carolina's Santee Electric Cooperative is receiving $54.8m to build or improve 970km of line for residential and business customers. The loan also includes $3m for storm damage restoration.
USDA's Rural Utilities Service, which funds utility infrastructure in rural areas, is the successor to the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), which was created by then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935. Congress approved statutory authority for the REA in 1936. The agency became part of USDA in 1939.
USDA is providing $106.3m in electric system infrastructure loans in this announcement. The Rural Utilities Service awarded $2.4bn in electric loans in 2014 to help 4.6m rural residents receive improved electric service. Since 2009, USDA has invested almost $31bn in rural electric systems, including more than $1bn in renewable energy projects.
"While the country suffered in the Great Depression, President Roosevelt led a national commitment to bringing power to rural America," Vilsack said. "That commitment helped make America the breadbasket of the world and most productive country in history. USDA's Rural Utilities Service is honouring that commitment by taking on today's challenges, including smart grid technology and advanced telecommunications and broadband access."