The Department of Agriculture announced this week that 64 projects proposed by energy cooperatives and utilities across the country to improve rural energy systems have been approved for federal loans.
The loans come from the Office of Rural Development’s Loan and Loan Guarantee Program of the Ministry of Electrical Grid Infrastructure, which aims to fund new and improved electrical distribution, transmission and generation facilities in rural areas, as well as demand-side management and energy conservation programs, as well as on-grid and off-grid renewable energy systems.
“These important investments will benefit rural communities and businesses in many ways for decades to come,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “This funding will help rural cooperatives and utilities invest in changes that will make our energy more efficient, reliable and affordable.”
The Singing River Electric Power Association, a cooperative serving 77,614 customers across Alabama and Mississippi, will use its $215 million grant, one of the largest individual foundations granted, to build 770 miles of new transmission lines and related infrastructure in rural areas Relocate communities in Mobile and Jefferson counties, including in Alabama.
The Electric Grid Infrastructure Loan program provides insured loans and loan guarantees to utilities and cooperatives for the development of power distribution and transmission facilities, green energy improvements and broadband networks in rural areas.
Projects were approved in 24 states, but most of the $2.7 billion went to the Southeast, where 23 separate projects in seven states received $1.2 billion in loans. The top two approved states were Georgia with $312 million and Florida with $368 million.
The program also includes funding for the rollout of “smart grid” technology, which “in addition to improving network security and reliability, can be a catalyst for broadband and other telecommunications services in unserved and underserved rural areas,” according to the press release.
It is the second recent announcement of federal support for Alabama’s rural infrastructure needs.
On Thursday, the US Department of Energy announced that the state will receive $192 million through the American Rescue Plan’s $10 billion equity project fund to expand broadband access in rural areas.
The Biden administration has pumped millions into rural infrastructure issues by opening up multiple sources of funding that state and local governments and utilities can draw on to fund projects.