Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley last week announced that USDA is providing $858 million in loans to upgrade rural electric systems in 17 states. The funding includes $64 million to finance smart grid technologies that improve system operations and monitor grid security.
“Investing in our nation’s electric infrastructure powers our economy, creates jobs and helps deliver services such as education, training and health care to build stronger rural communities,” Baxley said. “These loans will help rural electric cooperatives generate and distribute power to keep systems reliable and affordable for those who live and work in rural areas.”
USDA is investing in 17 projects through the Electric Loan Program in Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia. This funding will help build and improve 3,741 miles of line to improve electric reliability and resilience in rural areas.
The Carroll Electric Cooperative in Berryville, Ark., is receiving a $263 million loan to improve electric grid reliability and security for 998 miles of transmission and distribution line. Carroll will use $8.5 million of the loan to invest in smart grid technologies to improve system communications for 13,260 new customers.
In Arizona, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is receiving a $94 million loan to provide renewable energy to commercial and residential consumers in the Navajo Nation near Kayenta, Ariz. It will construct a 55.1 megawatt alternating current solar facility that will provide renewable energy, create jobs and promote economic growth to serve 26,000 Native Americans in Arizona.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.