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Runestone Electric Association gets USDA funding for Smart Grid improvements

NEW ORLEANS, La. - Runestone Electric Association of Alexandria, Minn. will receive a $22 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture to improve generation and transmission facilities and implement smart grid technologies. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that rural electric cooperatives and utilities in 12 states will receive the loan guarantees. The announcement was made on the Secretary's behalf by USDA Rural Utilities Acting Administrator John Padalino during the annual meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in New Orleans.

"In his State of the Union Address last week, President Obama said that in America we have 'an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair' and these investments help to address our country's infrastructure challenges," Padalino said. "Upgrading rural infrastructure sets the stage for economic development, because access to reliable, affordable electricity is essential to rural job creation."

Today's announcement includes support for more than $8 million in smart grid technologies, which help utilities make efficiency improvements to the electric grid and help consumers lower their electric bills by reducing energy use in homes and businesses.

The funds for REA will be used to build 82 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements.  The loan amount includes $379,100 for smart grid project.  

The $330 million in loan guarantees announced today are provided by USDA's Rural Utilities Service. The funding helps electric utilities upgrade, expand, maintain and replace rural America's electric infrastructure. USDA also funds energy conservation and renewable energy projects.