Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that 10 rural electric cooperatives and utilities have been awarded funding to build or expand transmission and distribution lines and provide smart grid technology to benefit nearly 20,000 rural consumers.

"This funding will lay the foundation for sustainable economic growth by out-building and out-innovating our competition to build a more robust rural economy," Vilsack said. "The investments rural electric cooperatives make in infrastructure and smart grid technology highlight the importance of innovation in ensuring a constant and affordable supply of electricity."

Secretary Vilsack is announcing loans totaling $376 million, including nearly $14 million in smart grid technology. The funds are being awarded through USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service to assist electric utilities with upgrades, expansion, maintenance and replacement of rural America's electric infrastructure. Smart grid technology, such as advanced metering, can provide data to consumers and utilities to better manage power use and costs. USDA Rural Development also helps fund energy conservation and renewable energy projects.

Navopache Electric Cooperative, which serves Arizona and New Mexico, has been awarded a $49.3 loan million to build 93 miles of new distribution line, make improvements to 36 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements. Nearly $6 million will fund investments in automated metering infrastructure, a smart grid technology.

Georgia Transmission Corporation has been awarded a $75.3 million loan to fund transmission system projects, including 21 miles of new transmission line, three new substations, and upgrades to existing substations to increase system capacity and improve reliability. This system provides transmission service to most of Georgia's rural electric cooperative utilities.

The following is a list of rural utilities that were awarded funding, which is contingent upon the borrowers meeting the conditions in the loan agreement.

Arkansas, Missouri

Carroll Electric Cooperative Corporation – $109,406,000. Funds will be used to connect 8,920 new consumers, build 268 miles of new distribution line and 22 miles of transmission line, and make other system improvements.

Arizona, New Mexico

Navopache Electric Cooperative, Inc. – $49,329,000. Funds will be used to connect 2,640 new consumers, build 93 miles of new distribution line, make improvements to 36 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements, including $5.8 million in smart grid technologies.

Colorado

Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association – $43,246,000. Funds will be used to connect 2,069 new consumers, build 54 miles of new distribution line, make improvements to 186 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements, including $6.7 million in smart grid technologies.

Georgia, Alabama, Florida

Georgia Transmission Corporation – $75,327,000. Funds will be used for transmission system projects to build 21 miles of new transmission line and three new substations.

Kansas

Southern Pioneer Electric Company – $30,000,000. Funds will be used to connect 480 new consumers, build 18 miles of new distribution line and 8 miles of transmission line, and make other system improvements, including $825,000 in smart grid technologies.

Maryland

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative – $37,000,000. Funds will be used to serve 3,691 consumers, build 155 miles of new distribution line, make improvements to 71 miles of existing distribution line, and make other system improvements.

Minnesota

Beltrami Electric Company – $9,057,000. Funds will be used to connect 602 new consumers, build 46 miles of new distribution line, make improvements to 56 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements, including $185,500 in smart grid technologies.

Missouri

Ozark Electric Cooperative – $10,000,000. Funds will be used to connect 605 new consumers, build 52 miles of new distribution line, and make other system improvements.

Missouri, Iowa

Grundy Electric Cooperative – $2,000,000. Funds will be used to connect 79 new consumers, build 4 miles of new distribution line, and make other system improvements.

South Dakota

Dakota Energy Cooperative, Inc. – $10,695,000. Funds will be used to connect 253 new consumers, build 51 miles of new distribution line, make improvements to 255 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements, including $175,904 in smart grid technologies.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of nearly $149 billion in loans and loan guarantees. Visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov for additional information about the agency's programs or to locate the USDA Rural Development office nearest you.