"For 80 years, rural electric utilities have provided reliable and affordable electricity to help rural communities increase productivity and build stronger economies," Vilsack said. "These loans will help them continue to do that. The utilities and cooperatives will use some of the money to finance energy efficiency projects, renewable fuel systems and smart grid technologies to increase our energy independence and improve rural electric infrastructure."
The $3.6 billion will build or improve 12,500 miles of transmission and distribution line. It includes $216 million for smart grid technologies, $35 million for renewable energy, $26 million for environmental improvements, and nearly $1.8 million for energy efficiency. The loans are being provided through the Electric Program of the Rural Utilities Service, the successor to the Rural Electrification Administration. Eighty years ago this spring, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the law that charged USDA to provide electric power to rural America. The Electric Program makes loans and loan guarantees to non-profit and cooperative associations, public bodies and other utilities.