Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday 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 will receive loan guarantees to make improvements to generation and transmission facilities and implement smart grid technologies.
"Grid modernization and deployment of 'smart grid' technology will increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power generation," said Vilsack. "Providing reliable, affordable electrical service contributes to stronger rural economies and is the backbone for a prosperous rural America. These loans will help ensure that rural areas can retain existing businesses, support new ones and have reliable, up-to-date infrastructure."
With its latest announcement, USDA has 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 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 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.