Cheyenne, OK – Last week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $69 million to build and improve rural electric infrastructure in western Oklahoma.
The Rural Development investment, to CKenergy Electric Cooperative, Inc., will be used to connect 1,480 consumers, and build and improve 1,276 miles of line. The investment includes $5,735,046 in smart grid technologies.
“I’m happy to see CKenergy Electric Cooperative receive this $69 million investment to build and improve essential electric infrastructure across western Oklahoma,” said Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03). “Safe and reliable electricity are critically important to the livelihoods of my neighbors across the District. I applaud Secretary Perdue and USDA for their investments in rural America, and I thank CKenergy for continuing to serve more than 26,000 members through 7,799 miles of line in 10 counties across western Oklahoma- especially as they work to restore power to those affected by Oklahoma’s recent ice storm.”
Last week’s announcement is part of a record level of USDA electric infrastructure investments in one fiscal year. The department invested $6.3 billion in the Electric Loan Program in FY 2020, up from $5.8 billion in 2019 – also a record. USDA made loans to 119 utilities in 34 states across the country during FY 2020, which ended on September 30. Those figures build upon the $3.7 billion invested in 2018.
“Working and accessible rural electric infrastructure is a cornerstone to prosperity in America’s heartland,” Secretary Perdue said. “This critical funding reflects President Trump’s commitment to increasing prosperity across all of rural America and ensures this major infrastructure network remains reliable for the millions of Americans who depend on it every day.”
Helping improve rural electric infrastructure is a significant part of the Trump administration’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. USDA’s Electric Program helps finance wind, solar and natural gas plants, as well as improvements to produce clean energy from coal-fired plants. Local utilities also use the loans to invest in infrastructure to deliver affordable power to thousands of residential, commercial and agricultural consumers.
Twenty-one of the loans that USDA awarded in FY 2020, representing almost 10 percent of total loan volume by dollar, will help expand smart grid technologies. Smart grid can be a catalyst for broadband and other telecommunications services in unserved and underserved rural areas. These loans will finance nearly 23,000 new line-miles of smart grid fiber when buildout is complete.
Rural electric cooperatives and utilities are increasing their internal communications capabilities to improve the reliability and efficiency of the electric grid. This added communications capacity helps cooperatives and their partners expand broadband coverage as they leverage these USDA smart grid investments.
In addition, this year, USDA has made it easier for rural electric utilities and cooperatives to use Electric Program loans for vegetation management programs to prevent and control wildfires.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.