More USDA loan guarantees for rural smart grid projects


By: SGN Staff


Quick Take:  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced another $188 million in loan guarantees to upgrade rural electric infrastructure. Of that, $18 million is earmarked for smart grid projects. All told, rural loan guarantees have led to nearly a half billion dollars of new electric power infrastructure.


The move will only strengthen the strong trend by vendors to focus on the coop and muni markets these days, at the expense of investor-owned utilities (IOUs). Coops and munis don't have mess with lengthy regulatory approvals and dense bureaucratic procurement procedures. They can simply decide which projects are cost efficient and move forward quickly. What's more, they often have easier access to money. - Jesse Berst


Agriculture Secretary Announces Funding for Projects to Strengthen the Rural Electric Grid's Efficiency and Reliability


 Announcement Includes More Than $18 million for Smart Grid Projects, Almost $10 Million for Native American Communities


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced funding for rural electric projects in seven states to provide reliable, affordable electricity for rural residents. USDA remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy.


"Funding for rural electric utilities is a cornerstone of the Obama Administration's continuing effort to develop a vibrant rural economy," Vilsack said. "It is also part of our 'all-of- the- above' strategy to support development of energy from a variety of renewable resources. USDA's support of rural electric utilities' deployment of smart grid technologies will increase efficiencies, reliability, and bring more jobs to rural America."


USDA Rural Development's support for rural electric utilities benefits an average of 8.6 million rural electric consumers annually. Smart grid technology is another tool to increase efficiency and reliability of the rural electric system. Since 2011, Rural Utilities Service borrowers have used USDA funding to invest nearly $464 million in smart grid improvements, providing for more strategic management of the rural electric system.


Today's announcement includes more than $188 million in loan guarantees to upgrade rural electric infrastructure, including more than $18 million in smart grid funding. The funding announced today will help finance the construction of more than 1,000 miles of new or improved electric line.