The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary, Tom Vilsack, has announced a new investment of $2.7 billion aimed at modernizing and expanding the nation’s rural electric grid. The funds will be channeled through the USDA Electric Loan Program to 64 electric cooperatives and utilities across multiple states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, and more.
This investment will benefit nearly 2 million rural residents and businesses and is expected to have a significant impact on improving grid security and efficiency. The loan program will also finance the installation and upgrade of smart grid technologies, which is expected to spur broadband and telecommunications services in unserved and underserved rural areas.
Approximately half of the awards will go towards infrastructure improvements in underprivileged communities. The Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative is set to receive a $111 million loan, which will be used to connect 1,264 consumers and improve 404 miles of line. Another recipient, the Carteret-Craven Electric Membership Cooperative in Newport, North Carolina, is set to receive a $28 million loan to connect 3,115 consumers and improve 132 miles of line.
The Biden-Harris Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act provided more than $12 billion to USDA for loans and grants aimed at expanding clean energy, improving rural power production, and spurring economic growth. This funding will help make energy cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable.
The USDA’s Electric Loan Program can finance the construction of wind, solar, and natural gas plants, as well as improvements aimed at producing cleaner energy from coal-fired plants. Local utilities can also use the loans to invest in infrastructure to deliver affordable power to residential, commercial, and agricultural consumers.
The USDA is committed to promoting economic opportunities and improving the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. The department provides loans and grants for infrastructure improvements, business development, housing, community facilities, and high-speed internet access in rural and high-poverty areas.
This investment is part of the USDA’s efforts to transform America’s food system, with a focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, access to safe and nutritious food, and building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers. The department is also making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy in rural America, and working towards equity across the department by removing systemic barriers and building a more representative workforce.
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