Washington, D.C., Jun 13, 2011 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Administration officials today to announce initiatives aimed at modernizing the nation's electric grid, including USDA's goal to invest $250 million in smart grid equipment deployment in rural America over the next 12 months.
"This is one more step in our effort to modernize rural America's electric grid." Vilsack said. "Smart grid technologies give consumers greater control over their electric costs and help utilities efficiently manage power generation and delivery. Through the use of modern technology we can improve the efficiency of distribution, increase reliability, and win the future through innovation."
Smart grid technologies give consumers more control over their electric costs and help utilities better manage the electric grid to improve operational efficiency. Smart grid investments make it possible to increase the use of renewable energy by balancing intermittent sources of power – like wind and solar –with other fuels. A smart grid also enables greater use of demand side management tools to save energy.
With funding from USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service (RUS), rural electric cooperatives are leading the way in smart grid deployments. Last year, RUS approved $7.1 billion in loans for a broad range of rural electric grid modernization, including $152 million in loans for smart meters. Smart grid infrastructure includes metering, substation automation, computer applications to monitor and control systems and processes, two-way communications, geospatial information systems, and additional system improvements.
As an ongoing example of the Obama Administration's commitment to smart grid technologies, Vilsack announced that $106 million in electric loans USDA Rural Development is providing includes $7.4 million in smart grid technology for technologies such as load management and automatic meter reading.
In Montana, Tongue River Electric Cooperative, Inc. will receive a loan of $7,694,000 to build 21 miles of new distribution line, make improvements to 35 miles of existing distribution line, and make other system improvements. The loan also includes $660,000 for advanced meter deployment.
The full list of rural utilities that were selected to receive USDA funding are available online at www.rurdev.usda.gov. The funding is contingent upon the borrower meeting the terms of the loan agreement.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $150 billion in loans and loan guarantees. Visit www.rurdev.usda.gov for additional information about the agency's programs or to locate the USDA Rural Development office nearest you.