WASHINGTON, May 30, 2019 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing $858 million in loans to upgrade rural electric systems across 17 states, benefiting around 450,000 consumers. Approximately 7.5% of this funding will be used to finance smart grid technologies, allowing for more efficient electricity transmissions and improved security.
“Investing in our nation’s electric infrastructure powers our economy, creates jobs and helps deliver services such as education, training and health care,” said Joel Baxley, acting assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development. “These loans will help rural electric cooperatives generate and distribute power to keep systems reliable and affordable for those who live and work in rural areas.”
The Electric Loan Program will fund 3,741 miles of line in rural areas. One location significantly impacted will be Arkansas, where the investment is expected to provide better system communications for 13,260 new customers. Another group that will benefit is the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority in Arizona, which is planning to construct a 55.1-megawatt solar facility to provide renewable energy, jobs, and economic growth for 26,000 Native Americans on the Navajo Nation.
The Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity recommended greater investments in rural infrastructure in January of 2018.