The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its $2.7 billion investment for rural electric infrastructure. Through the Electric Loan Program, the USDA will invest in 64 projects across 26 states, benefiting nearly 2 million rural people and businesses. Two Colorado electric co-ops will receive funds to improve and expand its infrastructure from this program.
Sangre de Cristo Electric Association, headquartered in Buena Vista, will receive $26,841,000. These funds will be used to connect 1,431 consumer-members and build and improve 195 miles of line. This loan includes $858,100 in smart-grid technologies. SDCEA serves 13,329 consumer-members over 1,799 miles of line in Lake, Fremont, Custer, Saguache and Chaffee counties.
Morgan County REA will receive $21,568,000 in funds. This rural development investment will be used to connect 144 consumer-members across the co-op’s service territory and build and improve 301 miles of line. This loan includes $1,691,212 in smart-grid technologies. MCREA is headquartered in Fort Morgan and serves 8,986 consumers over 2,919 miles of line throughout six counties in northeastern Colorado.
Electric Loan Program Funds may be used by the co-ops to finance:
- Replacement of distribution, sub-transmission and headquarters (service, warehouse) facilities
- Energy efficiency
- Renewable energy systems
“These critical investments will benefit rural people and businesses in many ways for decades to come,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a recent press release. “This funding will help rural cooperatives and utilities invest in changes that make our energy more efficient, more reliable and more affordable. Investing in infrastructure — roads, bridges, broadband and energy — supports good-paying jobs and keeps the United States poised to lead the global economy.”
This investment for rural electric infrastructure includes $613 million to help rural utilities and cooperatives install and upgrade smart-grid technologies. Smart grids can be a catalyst for broadband and other telecommunications services in unserved and underserved rural areas in addition to improving grid security and reliability.
In the coming months, the USDA will announce additional energy infrastructure financing. The Inflation Reduction Act provided more than $12 billion to the USDA for loans and grants to expand clean energy, transform rural power production, create jobs and spur economic growth. This funding will benefit electric cooperatives across the nation and in Colorado and make energy cleaner, more reliable and more affordable.