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Co-ops Get $3.6B in Power Loans

November 10, 2016 By Molly White in

Ending National Cooperative Month with a big-dollar announcement, the Department of Agriculture said electric cooperatives are in line for nearly $3.6 billion in loans to upgrade their systems.

“For 80 years, rural electric utilities have provided reliable and affordable electricity to help rural communities increase productivity and build stronger economies,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an Oct. 26 statement.

“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,” he said.

The money comes from the Rural Utilities Service Electric Loan Program and will help to build or improve 12,500 miles of transmission and distribution lines.

Also included are loans of $216 million for smart grid technologies, $35 million for renewable energy, $26 million for environmental improvements and nearly $1.8 million for energy efficiency, USDA said.

The biggest single recipient is CoBank, which will receive $375 million to provide loan guarantees for electric co-op infrastructure relending.

Other recipients:

United Electric Cooperative, Savannah, Missouri, is receiving a $28 million loan to build or improve 164 miles of line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $3.5 million for smart grid projects.

Dairyland Power Cooperative, La Crosse, Wisconsin, will use a $87 million loan to make system improvements, including building and improving 12 miles of line. The cooperative will use nearly $3.8 million for smart grid technology, increasing the efficiency of system operations.

Western Iowa Power Cooperative, Denison, will use a $525,000 loan to build a solar photovoltaic system to supplement power needs and provide smart grid technology.

Oglethorpe Power Corp., Tucker, Georgia, will use a $448 million loan for generation improvements for 41 electric co-ops across the state.

By Steven Johnson, Staff Writer