Rural electric cooperatives and utilities in 15 states, including Kansas, will receive loan guarantees to make improvements to generation and transmission facilities and implement smart grid technologies, according to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
With this funding, USDA Rural Development moves closer to reaching Vilsack's goal to fund more than $250 million for smart grid technologies. Support for more than $10 million in smart grid technologies, which help utilities make efficiency improvements to the electric grid, is in the plan. Smart grids also help consumers lower their electric bills by reducing energy use in homes and businesses
"USDA Rural Development has a strong commitment to help improve infrastructure in rural Kansas by offering low-interest financing to rural utility cooperatives," said USDA Rural Development State Director Patty Clark. "Financing provided by USDA Rural Development for rural electric projects assists cooperatives in improving electrical infrastructure, which helps them provide affordable and reliable energy to rural Kansans."
In Kansas, Ninnescah Rural Electric Cooperative Association will receive $9.67 million in financing to build and improve 410 miles of distribution line in Kiowa, Pratt and Edwards Counties and make other system improvements in Barber County.
More than 350 rural Kansas electrical customers will be served by the project. The loan includes $550,000 in smart grid projects, which consist of installing smart meters that allows the company to track real-time electrical usage. Ed Wiltse, General Manager at Ninnescah Rural Electric Cooperative Association, stated that the smart grid will assist the cooperative in locating outages and restoring power quickly, plus the cooperative can efficiently connect and disconnect meters from the office.
"The cooperative has partnered with USDA's Rural Utilities Services for more than 70 years, because they provide low-interest financing and the customer service has been excellent," said Wiltse. "This project will assist us in keeping our electric rates reasonable by not paying excessive interest costs, and it helps us to better plan our long-term financing."
The $287 million in loan guarantees announced today are provided by USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service. In addition to Kansas, the following states also received loan guarantees for electric infrastructure: Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Texas. 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.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $170 billion in loans and loan guarantees. 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 areas.