Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA has reached its $250 million goal to finance smart grid technologies, a key component of President Obama's effort to help modernize our nation's electric system. Vilsack also announced nine rural electric cooperatives and utilities in 10 states including North Carolina will receive loan guarantees to make improvements to generation and transmission facilities and implement smart grid technologies.
"Grid modernization and deployment of 'smart grid' technology will increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power generation," said Vilsack. "Providing reliable, affordable electrical service contributes to stronger rural economies and is the backbone for a prosperous rural America. These loans will help ensure that rural areas can retain existing businesses, support new ones and have reliable, up-to-date infrastructure."
As part of President Obama's Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, the Administration has outlined a framework for a modernized electric system that will benefit all Americans. This framework lays out a number of public and private initiatives, including a goal of $250 million in loans for smart-grid technology deployment as part of the USDA's Rural Utility Service, which is focused on upgrading the electric grid in rural America.
With today's announcement of more than $27 million in smart grid investments, USDA has met President Obama's goal and has further enabled rural utilities to make efficiency improvements to the electric grid that will help consumers lower their electric bills by reducing energy use in homes and businesses.
Vilsack said this $250 million investment in loan funds for smart grid technologies means infrastructure investment at virtually no cost to the taxpayer. These technologies will facilitate the integration of renewable sources of electricity into the grid, help avoid blackouts and restore power quicker when outages occur, and reduce the need for new power plants. Smart grid technologies also provide a foundation for innovation by entrepreneurs and others who can develop tools to empower consumers and help them make informed decisions. A first generation of innovative consumer products and services--such as thermostats that can be controlled from a smart phone, or websites that show how much energy a house is using--can continue to help Americans save money on their electricity bills.
Vilsack made the announcement during a tour of North Carolina's Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation, which received a $30,000,000 guaranteed loan from USDA to extend its system by 52 miles and help provide service to about 1,000 new member consumers. The cooperative will also increase capacity for 100 current consumers and improve the reliability of about 40 miles of line. The cooperative installed a new automated meter system (AMI) with funds from a previous loan and will invest approximately $150,000 of the funds from this new loan on new AMI meters for the 1,000 new member consumers.
Vilsack also announced that two other cooperatives in North Carolina will receive loan guarantees. Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation will receive a $21,500,000 loan to build and improve 220 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. Edgecombe-Martin County Electric Membership Corporation, which serves a rural area in the northeastern part of North Carolina, will receive a $6.4 million loan. Due to its location, the borrower is susceptible to extreme storm conditions, including hurricanes and Northeasters. The firm will use about $1 million of the loan to install automatic meters (AMIs).
The following is a list of rural utilities that will receive USDA funding, which is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement.
Colorado/ Nebraska/ New Mexico/ Wyoming
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. -- $140,483,000 loan. Funds will be used to build 50 miles of transmission line and make upgrades to the existing generation and transmission facilities. The loan amount includes $21,756,000 in smart grid projects and $808,780 in environmental improvements.
The Ark Valley Electric Cooperative Association, Inc. -- $6,130,000 loan. Funds will be used to build and improve 355 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $2,014,500 in smart grid projects.
Stearns Cooperative Electric Association -- $23,654,000 loan. The cooperative will improve 147 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $974,085 in smart grid projects.
Agralite Electric Cooperative -- $5,159,000 loan. Funds will be used to build and improve 61 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $180,968 in smart grid projects.
Northeast Missouri Electric Power Cooperative -- $30,093,000 loan. Funds will be used to build and improve 24 miles of transmission line, build three new substations and make other improvements. The loan amount includes $500,000 in smart grid projects.
Edgecombe-Martin County Electric Membership Corporation -- $6,410,000 loan. The cooperative will build and improve 310 miles of distribution line and 2 miles of transmission line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $1,084,728 in smart grid projects.
Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation -- $30,000,000 loan. Funds will be used to build and improve 108 miles of distribution line and 5 miles of transmission line and make other system improvements.
Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation -- $21,500,000 loan. Funds will be used to build and improve 220 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements.
Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative -- $6,000,000 loan. Funds will be used to build and improve 88 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $255,833 in smart grid projects.
The $269 million in loan guarantees announced today are provided by USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service (RUS). The funding helps electric utilities upgrade, expand, maintain and replace rural America's electric infrastructure. USDA Rural Development also funds energy conservation and renewable energy projects.
For additional information on RD projects, please visit Rural Development's new interactive web map featuring program funding and success stories for fiscal years 2009-2011. The data can be found at: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/RDSuccessStories.html.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way -- strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $172 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.