TEMPLE, TEXAS, Sep 15, 2011 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that 27 rural electric cooperative utilities will receive funding for generation and transmission projects, distribution facilities and smart grid technologies. These loans will create jobs and finance rural electric utility improvements benefiting more than 28,000 rural customers in 18 states.
“Rural electric cooperatives are leaders in rural economic development,” Vilsack said. “These projects will help ensure that electric cooperative utilities can continue to provide affordable and reliable electricity to encourage growth in rural areas. Investing in generation and transmission is critical if we are to take advantage of these new smart grid technologies.”
Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager made the announcement today on Vilsack’s behalf during a speech in Minneapolis at a regional meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Rural Development is providing more than $35 million to finance Smart Grid technologies that will help utilities better predict and respond to changes in supply and demand for power. These technologies will help utilities deliver service more reliably and efficiently.
The $603 million in loans are being provided by USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to help electric utilities upgrade, expand, maintain and replace rural America’s electric infrastructure. RUS funding will help build or improve nearly 5,000 miles of distribution line and more than 100 miles of transmission line. USDA Rural Development also funds energy conservation and renewable energy projects.
Two electric cooperatives in Texas received funding. Lighthouse Electric Cooperative, Inc. was awarded a $14,000,000 loan to serve 984 customers with 232 miles of new line, improve 34 miles of existing line and make $738,000 in Smart Grid investments. The Lamb County Electric Cooperative, Inc. was awarded a $30,269,000 loan to serve 1,795 customers with 284 miles of new line, improve 26 miles of existing line and make $2 million in Smart Grid investments. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement.
“Electric cooperatives provide a vital service to rural Texas communities,” said Paco Valentin, USDA Rural Development Texas State Director. “Lighthouse Electric Cooperative, Inc. and Lamb County Electric Cooperative, Inc. provide valuable and reliable services to homeowners, farms and businesses.”
In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The White House Rural Council will work throughout government to create policies to promote economic prosperity and a high quality of life in our rural communities.
Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining and thriving economically.
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 $155 billion in loans and loan guarantees. Visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov for additional information about the agency's programs or to locate the USDA Rural Development office nearest you.