WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2013 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced more than $1.8 billion in funding for electric utility infrastructure projects in 25 states and one territory to improve service for more than 37,000 rural customers. The projects include more than $45 million for smart grid technology, $73 million for renewable energy projects and over $213 million targeted to benefit Native Americans. This funding will build or improve more than 6,500 miles of line to deliver electricity to rural America.
"Rural electric cooperatives have provided reliable, affordable power to rural communities for more than 75 years. Today's investments will help ensure our electric infrastructure continues to deliver reliable and affordable electricity for years to come," Vilsack said. "This funding is part of the Obama Administration's vision for a new rural energy economy and USDA's commitment to creating economic opportunity in rural America. Investments in smart grid technologies will continue to modernize our nation's electric system and improve operational efficiencies."
Today's funding announcement is provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Utilities Service Program.
Among the projects being funded is the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, which serves rural electric consumers in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The utility will receive funding of nearly $168 million to build approximately 1,215 miles of line, invest in smart grid technologies and make other system improvements. Nearly 3,800 rural electric consumers in the three states will see direct benefits from this investment. Of the $168 million in funding, more than $166 million will serve Native Americans.
In North Dakota, the Nodak Electric Cooperative will receive a loan of $31 million to serve 920 consumers, build 450 miles of line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $2.4 million for smart grid projects and $540,000 for service to Native Americans.
In Alabama, Covington Electric Cooperative will receive a $42.5 million loan guarantee to construct 539 miles of line and make other system improvements, including $8,000 for smart grid applications. These funds will increase electric system reliability for approximately 5,400 rural Alabama customers.
Both South Dakota and Alabama are part of USDA's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity which leverages community resources in persistent poverty areas in targeted states.
Secretary Vilsack said that today's announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy, Vilsack added, saying that's just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Bill done as soon as possible.
Look here for a list of rural electric utilities that will receive USDA funding, contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.
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