USDA Announces Investments to Improve Rural Electric Infrastructure and Increase Grid Resilience
Sunday, November 11th, 2018
Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett announced that USDA is investing $1.6 billion in 46 rural electric utility infrastructure projects to improve electric reliability and resilience in 24 states.
“Reliable and affordable power is an underpinning for economic development and quality of life,” Hazlett said. “Under the leadership of Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in building prosperity in rural communities through the sustainment and modernization of rural electric infrastructure.”
The 46 projects announced today are being funded through USDA’s Electric Program. These investments will help contribute to a stronger rural electric system by improving operations and reliability. USDA’s funding will help build or improve 5,833 miles of line. It includes $307 million in smart grid technologies, which improve system operations and monitor grid security. These investments, such as the ones listed below, will benefit 7 million rural business and residential electric consumers across the country.
In Ohio, South Central Power Cooperative will use a $124 million loan to add 144 miles of line, improve 205 miles of line and make other system improvements, including a $24 million investment in smart grid technologies. South Central Power is the largest rural electric distribution cooperative in Ohio. It serves more than 119,000 residential and commercial consumers southeast of Columbus. The service territory is very rural, heavily wooded and economically diverse. Agricultural production is among the major contributors to the economy in the service territory.
Minnkota Power Cooperative will use a $67.4 million loan to finance generation and transmission improvements. Minnkota is a regional generation and transmission cooperative, serving 11 distribution electric cooperatives that provide electric services to portions of 20 counties in eastern North Dakota and 17 counties in northwestern Minnesota. The service territory is approximately 35,000 square miles and has a population of 300,000.
Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC) will use a $93.9 million loan to finance transmission improvement projects that serve more than 1.8 million consumers. GTC supplies transmission service to 38 of the state’s 41 electric membership cooperatives. It owns and maintains approximately 3,410 miles of transmission line and is the largest cooperative-owned transmission system in the United States.
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.