USDA earmarks $100 million in loans to boost rural electrical service

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 11, 2015 - USDA celebrated the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Rural Electrification Service today by announcing more than $100 million in loans to build or improve 1,000 miles of rural electric transmission and distribution lines.

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The loans - given to electric cooperatives in Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota, and South Carolina - are being awarded through USDA's Rural Utilities Service, which funds utility infrastructure in rural areas. The agency is the successor to the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), which was created by then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on May 11, 1935, and became part of USDA in 1939.

"We commend rural electric cooperative utilities nationwide as we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. "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."

The loans announced today include:

  • $14 million to the Johnson County Rural Electric Membership Corp. in Indiana to build or improve 345 miles of line and make other system improvements, including $4.8 million for smart grid projects.

  • $25 million to the Thumb Electric Cooperative of to build or improve 93 miles of line and make other system improvements, including a $2.7 million smart grid investment.

  • $12.5 million to Slope Electric Cooperative in North Dakota to build or improve 66 miles of line and make other system improvements, including $432,000 for smart grid technologies.

  • $54.8 million to South Carolina's Santee Electric Cooperative to build or improve 605 miles of line for residential and business customers. The loan also includes $3 million for storm damage restoration.

In all, $9 million is earmarked for smart-grid investment.

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Last year, the Rural Utilities Service awarded $2.4 billion in electric loans to help 4.6 million rural residents receive improved electric service. Since 2009, USDA has invested almost $31 billion in rural electric systems, including more than $1 billion 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 added. "That commitment helped make America the breadbasket of the world and most productive country in history. USDA's Rural Utilities Service is honoring that commitment by taking on today's challenges, including smart grid technology and advanced telecommunications and broadband access."

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