The US Department of Agriculture said it will provide more than $250,000 in loans to help rural utilities improve their grid infrastructure.The loans will be distributed to improve electric infrastructure in rural areas under the Electric Programme of the Rural Utilities Service.
Roger Glendenning, acting deputy secretary of the USDA, said: “These loans will help improve the delivery of reliable electricity, and will help ensure that rural areas nationwide can prosper economically and benefit from today’s technologies to meet tomorrow’s needs.”
A statement issued by the USDA, says the loans will construct and upgrade 1,369 miles of transmission and distribution lines.
For instance, in Georgia, Greystone Power Corp will use its $90.3 million loan to build 148 miles of distribution lines, connect some 8,000 new customers and invest $9.1 million in smart grid technologies to improve the efficiency and reliability of electric infrastructure.
In Indiana, Whitewater Valley Rural Electric will invest $10 million loan in upgrading its 111 miles of distribution lines whilst Great Lakes Energy Cooperative will use it's $47 million to construct and modernise 709 miles of distribution lines to add more than 3,000 consumers in its network.
Some of the utilities to receive loans under the announced funding round include Wild Rice Electric Cooperative in Minnesota ($14.7 million), Northwestern Electric Cooperative in Oklahoma ($25 million) and Central Power Electric Cooperative in North Dakota (50.4 million). [US federal gov funds smart grid upgrades in rural areas].
Energy efficiency improvements
According to the Alken Standard, the USDA will direct $13 million towards the Rural Energy Savings project which falls under the Electric Programme of the Rural Utilities Service, to help utility cooperatives in North Carolina improve energy efficiency for their customers.
Alken Electric Cooperative will use its share of the loan to increase deployment of its energy efficiency programme Help My House whilst six other electric cooperatives in North Carolina will launch or implement pilots of the energy conservation initiative.
Under the Help My Home initiative, Alken Electric Cooperative conducts home energy assessments for its residential customers to identify ways to which consumers can reduce energy usage and costs.
The utility then provides funding towards energy efficiency upgrades. Consumers will direct savings achieved from the upgrades towards payment of the loan offered by Alken Electric Cooperative for installation of energy efficient equipment and appliances.
Amongst its 47,000 customers, Alken Electric Cooperative has to date implemented energy efficiency upgrades in 250 residential homes under the Help My Home programme. [USDA offers up $300m in energy efficiency funding].
A study conducted in 2016 showed that the utility’s first 125 homes which benefited from the programme reduced their energy usage by 30%.
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