Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA has reached its $250 million goal to finance smart grid technologies. Vilsack also announced nine rural electric cooperatives and utilities in 10 states including North Carolina will receive loan guarantees to make improvements to generation and transmission facilities and implement smart grid technologies.

The Obama Administration has outlined a framework for a modernized electric system that lays out a number of public and private initiatives, including a goal of $250 million in loans for smart-grid technology deployment as part of the USDA's Rural Utility Service, which is focused on upgrading the electric grid in rural America.

With the announcement of more than $27 million in smart grid investments, USDA has met its goal and has further enabled rural utilities to make efficiency improvements to the electric grid that will help consumers lower their electric bills by reducing energy use in homes and businesses.

Vilsack said this $250 million investment in loan funds for smart grid technologies means infrastructure investment at virtually no cost to the taxpayer. These technologies will facilitate the integration of renewable sources of electricity into the grid, help avoid blackouts and restore power quicker when outages occur, and reduce the need for new power plants. Smart grid technologies also provide a foundation for innovation by entrepreneurs and others who can develop tools to empower consumers and help them make informed decisions. A first generation of innovative consumer products and services—such as thermostats that can be controlled from a smart phone, or websites that show how much energy a house is using—can continue to help Americans save money on their electricity bills.

Vilsack made the announcement during a tour of North Carolina's Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation, which received a $30,000,000 guaranteed loan from USDA to extend its system by 52 miles and help provide service to about 1,000 new member consumers. The cooperative will also increase capacity for 100 current consumers and improve the reliability of about 40 miles of line. The cooperative installed a new automated meter system (AMI) with funds from a previous loan and will invest approximately $150,000 of the funds from this new loan on new AMI meters for the 1,000 new member consumers.

Vilsack also announced that two other cooperatives in North Carolina will receive loan guarantees. Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation will receive a $21,500,000 loan to build and improve 220 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. Edgecombe-Martin County Electric Membership Corporation, which serves a rural area in the northeastern part of North Carolina, will receive a $6.4 million loan. Due to its location, the borrower is susceptible to extreme storm conditions, including hurricanes and Northeasters. The firm will use about $1 million of the loan to install automatic meters (AMIs).

The following is a list of rural utilities that will receive USDA funding, which is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement.

Colorado/ Nebraska/ New Mexico/ Wyoming

  • Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. – $140,483,000 loan. Funds will be used to build 50 miles of transmission line and make upgrades to the existing generation and transmission facilities. The loan amount includes $21,756,000 in smart grid projects and $808,780 in environmental improvements.

Kansas

  • The Ark Valley Electric Cooperative Association, Inc. – $6,130,000 loan. Funds will be used to build and improve 355 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $2,014,500 in smart grid projects.

Minnesota

  • Stearns Cooperative Electric Association – $23,654,000 loan. The cooperative will improve 147 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $974,085 in smart grid projects.
  • Agralite Electric Cooperative – $5,159,000 loan. Funds will be used to build and improve 61 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $180,968 in smart grid projects.

Missouri/Iowa

  • Northeast Missouri Electric Power Cooperative – $30,093,000 loan. Funds will be used to build and improve 24 miles of transmission line, build three new substations and make other improvements. The loan amount includes $500,000 in smart grid projects.

North Carolina

  • Edgecombe-Martin County Electric Membership Corporation – $6,410,000 loan. The cooperative will build and improve 310 miles of distribution line and 2 miles of transmission line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $1,084,728 in smart grid projects.
  • Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation – $30,000,000 loan. Funds will be used to build and improve 108 miles of distribution line and 5 miles of transmission line and make other system improvements.
  • Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation – $21,500,000 loan. Funds will be used to build and improve 220 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements.

Wisconsin

  • Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative – $6,000,000 loan. Funds will be used to build and improve 88 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $255,833 in smart grid projects.

The $269 million in loan guarantees are provided by USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service (RUS). The funding helps electric utilities upgrade, expand, maintain and replace rural America's electric infrastructure. USDA Rural Development also funds energy conservation and renewable energy projects.