October 20, 2011

USDA Announces Funding To Improve Rural Electric Service



Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on October 13th announced funding for rural electric cooperative utilities to improve distribution systems and smart grid technologies in 27 states, as part of the Obama Administration's continued focus on investments in infrastructure that create rural jobs.

The announcement was made on the Secretary's behalf by Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager during a speech to the National Rural Electric Association regional meeting in Denver, where he also stressed the importance of the American Jobs Act to spur job creation throughout the country.

"This investment in the electric grid will help address the growing need for electric service nationwide and spur job creation by building out rural infrastructure," Vilsack said. "Smart grid technology can help better manage power use, provide rate stability for businesses and create the climate for job growth in rural America."

Over $2.1 billion in loans are provided by USDA's Rural Utilities Service, a Rural Development Agency, to help rural electric utilities build and upgrade rural America's electric infrastructure. These projects will fund over $40 million in smart grid technologies and will build or improve nearly 6,000 miles of line. Funding for distribution cooperatives, which provide power to consumers, will benefit over 38,000 rural businesses and residents.

Included in the funding were four loans for Missouri projects that will help keep electricity reliable and affordable for rural communities.

Tri-County Electric Cooperative Association, Inc. will receive $7,110,000 to build 41 miles of new distribution lines and make improvements to 39 miles of existing distribution lines.

"Every four years we complete a system improvements and reliability plan with the rural utility services," said Tri-County assistant manager Kevin Wheeler. "This money will help us complete the most recent plan."

Wheeler estimated the funding would allow projects to begin next summer, with plans for upgrading or replacing power lines in Scotland, Schuyler and Adair counties.

"As our load grows, we have to grow with it," Wheeler noted about the cooperatives continuing expansion. "Not only do we have to add new services, but we have to maintain the existing lines that must stand the tests of time."

Other Missouri cooperatives receiving funding included:

Macon Electric Cooperative will receive $10,000,000 to build nearly 72 miles of new distribution lines, make improvements to 25 miles of existing distribution lines, and make other system improvements.

Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative will receive a loan of $23,000,000 to build 72 miles of new distribution lines, make improvements to 376 miles of existing distribution lines, and make other system improvements. Howell-Oregon will also receive an additional $84,929 towards smart grid projects.

Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative will receive $3,884,000 to build 8 miles of new distribution lines and make other improvements.

Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement.

This announcement is part of a series of rural infrastructure investments expected by Secretary Vilsack during the next two weeks. This effort supports the goal of the American Jobs Act, which makes critical infrastructure improvements to put people back to work immediately.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $155 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

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