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USDA to invest $309m in rural electric utilities

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The US Department of Agriculture has announced its plans to invest $309m in rural electric utilities across 16 projects in 12 states.

Rural Development Assistant Secretary Anne Hazlett said: “Robust, modern infrastructure is a foundation for quality of life and economic opportunity no matter the zip code in which you live.

“Under Secretary Perdue’s leadership, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in addressing rural infrastructure needs to support a more prosperous future in rural communities.”

Farmers Electric Cooperative in Greenfield, Iowa is receiving $1.4m in USDA loan to invest in smart grid projects. Farmers are planning to install more than 5,800 single-phase meters and additional meter reading equipment in its west-central Iowa service area.

Harrison County REC, in Woodbine, Iowa, will also be receiving a $6m loan to build 20 miles of electric line, improve 57miles and make other system improvements. The loan includes $578,000 for smart grid projects.

The loans are being provided through the department’s Electric Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee program. It helps to finance generation, transmission and distribution projects, system improvements, and energy conservation projects in communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.

Farmers Electric Cooperative and Harrison County REC are among several other rural electric cooperatives and utilities that have partnered with USDA to use smart grid for computer applications, two-way communications, geospatial information systems and other tools to increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power systems.

The present investment is claimed to build or improve 1,660miles of electric lines serving rural homes, farms and businesses. The department is funding infrastructure improvements for utilities across Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, South Dakota and Washington.

Funding for the loans was part of FY 2018 Omnibus spending bill. The bill has allocated significant resources for infrastructure investments, including $6.25 billion to USDA for electric loans.