South Kentucky RECC is among 53 electric providers in 25 states for which the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) is investing a total of $3.1 billion to build or improve rural electric infrastructure.
The funding comes from USDA Rural Development's Electric Loan Program and will benefit 1.4 million rural residents and businesses in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
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.
In the case of SKRECC, according to Corporate Communications Coordinator Joy Bullock, $44 million will be used for line and system upgrades in accordance with their 2020-2023 work plan. These projects will connect 4,044 customers as well as build and improve 178 miles of line.
"These funds are used for line and system upgrades, as well as construction required to serve new members for the next four years," Bullock said. "Historically, every three to five years, we seek funding from the Rural Utilities Service to provide capital financing support for these types of system projects."
The loan includes $2,392,741 in smart grid technologies. 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 can help cooperatives and their partners expand broadband coverage as they leverage these USDA smart grid investments but SKRECC has no plans to offer broadband.
The local co-op, headquartered in Somerset, serves some 68,245 members over 6,932 miles of line throughout 11 counties in southeastern Kentucky and two counties in northeastern Tennessee.
"Working and accessible rural electric infrastructure is a cornerstone to prosperity in America's heartland," USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue stated. "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."