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USDA announces investment in rural electric infrastructure

By Justin Walker

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues its plan to improve rural America by announcing an investment in rural electric utility infrastructure projects.

The plan will invest $1.6 billion in 46 projects to improve elective reliability and resilience across 24 states, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett said.

“Reliable and affordable power is an underpinning for economic development and quality of life,” Hazlett said. “Under the leadership of Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in building prosperity in rural communities through the sustainment and modernization of rural electric infrastructure.”

Funds for the 46 projects will go through the USDA’s Electric Program, which will contribute to a sturdier rural electric system by strengthening operations and reliability. The project includes $307 million in smart grid technologies to improve system operations and monitor grid security.

About 7 million rural business and residential electric consumers will benefit from the investments.

A $50 million investment in Texas for the San Miguel Electric Cooperative was included in the announcement. This venture will fund system improvements for a lignite-fired stream electric generating unit. The plant, located in Christine, powers eight rural electric cooperatives, which serves an estimated 270,000 residential and commercial consumers in 42 counties across the Lone Star State.

The announcement comes as part of the recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to capitalize on opportunities in rural America.

The recommendations were made by the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, which was established in 2017 to identify legislative regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities.

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