Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced funding for four rural electric projects in eight states to provide reliable, affordable electricity for rural residents. USDA remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy. Vilsack made the announcement during the legislative conference of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in Washington.
"Next month, USDA's Rural Utilities Service will celebrate 78 years of serving rural America and today's announcement adds to that impressive history," Vilsack said. "Working with our partners, the Obama Administration and USDA will continue to support projects -- like those announced today -- that strengthen our rural electric grid and increase overall efficiency."
These are the latest round of the approximately 650 rural electric utility projects that have been funded since 2009 that help provide reliable, affordable electricity to rural areas. Vilsack said that these projects benefit an average of 8.6 million rural electric consumers annually. Smart grid technology, he said, is another tool to increase efficiency and reliability of the rural electric system. Since 2011, rural electric cooperatives have used USDA funding to invest nearly $500 million in smart grid improvements, providing for more strategic management of the rural electric system. Since 2009, USDA has funded over $834 million in renewable energy projects.
Today's announcement will includes more than $126 million in loans to upgrade rural electric infrastructure, including more than $20 million in smart grid funding. Since 2011, USDA has supported smart grid investments totaling nearly $500 million. The funding announced today will help finance the construction of more than 800 miles of new or improved electric line.
One of the rural electric cooperatives that will receive funding is Colorado's Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc., which serves 44 consumer-owned distribution cooperatives. It is receiving a $73 million loan to upgrade generation and transmission facilities, improve 50 miles of transmission line and build a substation. The loan amount includes more than $18 million for smart grid projects.
In Ohio, Logan County Cooperative Power & Light Association, Inc. will receive a $4.5 million loan to build 32 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. The loan includes $331,100 for smart grid projects.
The following is a complete list of rural electric utilities that will receive USDA funding, contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement.
Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. -- $72,977,000 loan. Funds will be used to upgrade generation and transmission facilities, improve 50 miles of transmission line and build a substation. The loan amount includes more than $18 million for smart grid projects.
Georgia and North Carolina
Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation -- $28,178,000 loan. Funds will be used to build 256 miles of distribution line and make system improvements. The loan amount includes $25,000 for smart grid projects.
Logan County Cooperative Power & Light Association, Inc. -- $4,500,000 loan. Funds will be used to build 32 miles of distribution line and make system improvements. The loan amount includes $331,100 for smart grid projects.
Texas and New Mexico
Rio Grande Electric Cooperative, Inc. -- $20,929,000 loan. Funds will be used to build 495 miles of distribution line and make system improvements. The loan amount includes $1,409,000 for smart grid projects.
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, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration -- the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $700 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.