- The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week announced it would provide $3.6 billion in loans to fund 82 electric projects in 31 states, supporting infrastructure upgrades, create jobs and improve system operations for rural electric utilities.
- The funding includes more than $200 million for smart grid technologies, $35 million for renewables and $26 million for environmental projects. The bulk of spending will go to build or improve transmission lines.
- The largest project, at almost $450 million, would support make generation system improvements on Oglethorpe Power Corp,'s system in Georgia.
USDA's announcement last week builds on a substantial history of support for rural electric programs. In the last seven years, the federal agency has invested $38 billion in electric loans and more than $1 billion for smart grid technologies, which it says has helped build more than 185,000 miles of transmission and distribution.
The investments go beyond transmission lines and increasingly include smart grid technology and infrastructure to enable two-way communication and grid support.
"The utilities and cooperatives will use some of the money to finance energy efficiency projects, renewable fuel systems and smart grid technologies to increase our energy independence and improve rural electric infrastructure," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
Loans are provided through the Electric Program of the Rural Utilities Service. For more on how the program is improving electricity service in small communities, read Utility Dive's coverage here. Projects funded by the RUS must the needs of underserved communities with populations of 20,000 or less.
RUS' announcement last week includes $216 million for smart grid technologies, $35 million for renewable energy, $26 million for environmental improvements, and nearly $1.8 million for energy efficiency. A complete list of projects can be found here. They include small projects like a $3 million enhancement to 28 miles owned by Union County Electric Cooperative in South Dakota. On the other side, CoBank on Colorado will receive $375 million to provide loan guarantees for rural electric cooperative infrastructure relending.