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Bringing the Grid to Unserved Areas

Modernizing the electric grid will help modernize the nation’s rural electric grid and improve grid security. We are beginning to see this come to life right here in South Carolina, as the Biden-Harris Admin., has invested $20 million to improve and expand rural electric infrastructure in South Carolina.

Digging in a little bit deeper, the USDA (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) announced the department is investing $2.7 billion to help 64 electric cooperatives and utilities through the Electric Loan Program, which will benefit nearly 2 million rural people and businesses in many different states.

USDA’s Electric Loan Program can help finance wind, solar, and natural gas plants, as well as improvements to produce cleaner energy from coal-fired plants. Local utilities also use the loans to invest in infrastructure to deliver affordable power to millions of residential, commercial, and agricultural consumers.

The money will be used to help rural utilities and cooperatives install and upgrade smart-grid technologies. The benefit here is two-fold. For one, it can be a catalyst for broadband and other telecommunications services in unserved and underserved rural areas. It can also help improve grid security and reliability—which is critical today.

Here, South Carolina received $20 million of this funding for the Broad River Electric Cooperative to connect 2,600 consumers and build and improve 110 miles of line. This loan includes $2,692,694 in smart-grid technologies. Headquartered in Gaffney, S.C., Broad River Electric serves 23,206 consumers more than 2,702 miles in Cherokee, Newberry, Spartanburg, and Union counties in South Carolina as well as portions of Cleveland, Polk, Rutherford counties, in the state of North Carolina.

In the coming months, USDA will announce additional energy infrastructure financing. The Biden-Harris Admin.’s Inflation Reduction Act provided more than $12 billion to USDA for loans and grants to expand clean energy, transform rural power production, create jobs, and spur economic growth. This funding will help make energy cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable.

What are you seeing in your own communities? Is the grid being built out for all? Is it helping support infrastructure improvements, business development, housing, community facilities, public safety, healthcare, and more? Or are the build outs stalling for one reason or another? I would love to hear what you are seeing in your own communities.

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