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USDA Announces Investments to Improve Rural Electric Infrastructure and Increase Grid Resilience

Stephen White
Release Date

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that USDA is investing $1.6 billion in 46 rural electric utility infrastructure projects to improve electric reliability and resilience in 24 states. Tennessee Rural Development State Director Jim Tracy is pleased to announce that two electric cooperatives are receiving funding to expand and improve electrical grids in rural Tennessee.   

   “Investments to our electrical infrastructure are vital to meet the needs of our citizens and businesses,” Tracy said. “Improvements such as these will fundamentally improve the quality of life in our rural areas.”

   The 46 projects announced today are being funded through USDA’s Electric Program. These investments will help contribute to a stronger rural electric system by improving operations and reliability. USDA’s funding will help build or improve 5,833 miles of line. It includes $307 million in smart grid technologies, which improve system operations and monitor grid security.  These investments, such as the ones listed below, will benefit 7 million rural business and residential electric consumers across the country.

Below is a summary of the investments in Tennessee:

  • The Plateau Electric Cooperative will use a $9,000,000 loan to build 29 miles of line, improve 21 miles and make other system improvements, including nearly $37,000 in smart grid technologies. Plateau Electric serves more than 17,000 residential and commercial consumers in two counties, one of which is classified as poverty. Plateau is served by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

  • The Mountain Electric Cooperative will use a $36,720,000 loan to build 166 miles of line, improve 940 miles and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $7,011,000 for smart grid projects. Mountain Electric is headquartered in Mountain City. It provides electric services to almost 34,000 consumers through 2,323 miles of line in Avery, Burke, McDowell and Watauga counties in northwest North Carolina and Carter, Johnson and Unicoi Counties in northeast Tennessee. The service territory in Tennessee covers some rugged and hilly terrain that is bordered by the Blue Ridge Mountains. In North Carolina, much of the service territory is extremely rural and mountainous. In both states, agriculture is an important part of the economy.

    In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

   To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

   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.