From a press release dated March 4, 2020: Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $900 million to build, preserve or improve rural electric infrastructure across 16 states (PDF, 151 KB). Censky made the announcement at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting and conference in New Orleans.
“Rural electric cooperatives have been the champions of rural electric infrastructure, the lifeblood of America’s heartland, in every state across the country since the Rural Electrification Administration’s efforts in the 1930s,” Censky said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to continuing this strong and critical partnership to increase prosperity across rural America, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
USDA is providing financing through the Electric Loan Program. It will help build and improve 2,743 miles of line to strengthen reliability in rural areas and will benefit 1.1 million rural residents and businesses. The loans include $17 million for investments in smart grid technology that uses digital communications to detect and react to local changes in electricity usage.
Among the loans announced today, the East Kentucky Power Cooperative is receiving a $347 million loan to make generation system improvements to enhance system reliability. Eastern Kentucky generates wholesale electricity and provides bulk transmission services. Its 16 distribution member cooperatives serve approximately 595,000 meters and more than 540,000 member-consumers in the eastern two-thirds of Kentucky. Its members serve 89 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
The Brunswick Electric Membership Corp., in Shallotte, N.C., is receiving a $78 million loan to connect 10,288 consumers, and build or improve 274 miles of line. The loan includes $3.5 million in smart grid technologies. Brunswick serves more than 93,000 customers over 6,814 miles of line in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus and Robeson counties in southeastern North Carolina.
The Little River Electric Cooperative in Abbeville, S.C., is receiving a $16 million loan to connect 1,043 consumers, and build and improve 142 miles of line. This project includes $3.4 million in smart grid technologies. Little River serves 14,257 customers over 2,082 miles of line in Abbeville, Anderson, Greenwood and McCormick counties.
States receiving funding under today’s announcement are Arkansas, California, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota and Virginia.
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. To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).
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. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.
“The USDA loan funds will help to finance two major power plant retrofit projects to ensure those facilities can continue to provide reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy to the 1.1 million Kentucky residents served by the 16 electric cooperatives that own EKPC, including Cumberland Valley Electric,” said Nick Comer, External Affairs Manager for EKPC.
The projects include converting two large generating units to dry-ash handling, constructing water treatment facilities and closing out the ash pond at Spurlock Station in Maysville, Ky., and adding backup fuel capabilities and storage to ensure the reliability of Bluegrass Station in Lagrange, Ky.