USDA expands utility assistance in rural communities


The loans will be made available to support deployment of 82 projects in 31 states through the Electric Programme of the Rural Utilities Service.

In a press statement, Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture, said the loans will be used to build and upgrade 12,500 miles of transmission and distribution lines to ensure reliable delivery of electricity in rural areas.

$216 million is available for the smart grid sector, $35 million for renewable energy, $26 million for environmental improvements and nearly $1.8 million for energy efficiency.

The funding falls under efforts by USDA to ensure reliable grid networks providing cheap electricity to consumers in rural communities.

The loans are expected to help reduce carbon emissions, improve quality of life and boosts economic activities in beneficiary areas.

[quote] Utility firms and cooperatives to receive the USDA energy infrastructure funding include United Electric Cooperative in Missouri, Western Iowa Power Cooperative (WIPCO) and the Oglethorpe Power Corporation in Georgia.

Utilities in Missouri will receive a total of $108 million to fund three energy projects including the upgrade of 300 miles of transmission and distribution lines and deployment of smart grid technologies to improve grid resilience.

WIPCO will receive $525,000 loan to build solar generation system which will feed electricity into main grid to meet rising power demands.

Oglethorpe Power Corporation will help 41 rural electric cooperatives in Georgia improve generation portfolios using $448 million USDA loan.

The loans adds to $38.2 billion provided by USDA to funding 1,057 electric projects since 2009.

Federal energy infrastructure funding

In late June, the USDA partnered with the Bureau of Reclamation to enhance water and energy conservation.

The two federal departments said they will provide $47 million to help water districts and energy projects in 13 states in the western US, enhance water and energy conservation.

The USDA said it will commit $15 million towards the projects whilst the Bureau of Reclamation will provide $32.6 million. Seventy-six projects are set to benefit from the funding. [US DoE plans US$220m for smart grid development].

The partnership falls under the federal government’s efforts to reduce the effects of the ongoing drought in the US.


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