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Columbia Business Monthly

S.C. to Benefit from $1.6 Billion Investment in Rural Electric Infrastructure

Jun 23, 2020 10:23AM ● By David Dykes

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $1.6 billion to build or improve rural electric infrastructure in 21 states, including South Carolina, the Trump Administration announced. 

“Reliable and modern 21st century infrastructure, including electric infrastructure and smart grid technologies, is a cornerstone for prosperity in rural America,” Secretary Sonny Perdue said.

USDA is providing loans and loan guarantees to rural electric cooperatives and utilities through the Electric Loan Program.

Recipients will use the funds to build and improve 9,138 miles of electric transmission and distribution line, benefiting 1 million rural residents and businesses, USDA officials said. 

The loans include nearly $386 million for investments in smart grid technology, which uses digital communications to detect and react to local changes in electricity usage, the officials said.

The investments are being made in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

South Carolina’s Central Electric Power Cooperative is receiving a $70 million loan to build and improve 35 miles of transmission line. The loan includes $758,000 in smart grid technologies. Central Electric provides wholesale electric service to South Carolina’s 20 retail electric cooperatives, which serve 46 counties and more than 800,000 customers.

Earlier this year, USDA officials announced the Little River Electric Cooperative in Abbeville, S.C., was receiving a $16 million loan to connect 1,043 consumers, and build and improve 142 miles of line. The project included $3.4 million in smart grid technologies. Little River serves 14,257 customers over 2,082 miles of line in Abbeville, Anderson, Greenwood and McCormick counties.

The investment was part of $900 million to build, preserve or improve rural electric infrastructure across 16 states.

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.

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