One of candidate Donald Trump's leading campaign promises was for bigger investments in public infrastructure projects to help stimulate job growth. While infrastructure is often associated with transportation projects, like roads and bridges, it also includes electric generation, transmission and distribution. Along those lines, this month, the Trump administration announced a sizable investment in the nation's rural electric infrastructure.
Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett announced on June 7 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $309 million in 16 projects. They are located in rural areas across 12 states. More than 1,600 miles of new transmission lines and line improvements along with smart grid technology will be installed in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, South Dakota and Washington. The funding specifically targets communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
Funds for the projects are being provided through the USDA’s Electric Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee program. Loans are being made to utilities in amounts ranging from $1.4 million to $82 million. The loan guarantee program makes insured loans and loan guarantees to nonprofit and cooperative associations, public bodies, and other utilities. Insured loans primarily finance the construction of electric distribution facilities in rural areas, but the program was expanded to include financing for generation, transmission and distribution facilities. Eligible projects also include demand side management, energy conservation programs, and on-grid and off-grid renewable energy systems.
Increasing investments in rural infrastructure was a key recommendation of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity established by President Trump in April 2017.
Funding for the loans was included in the FY 2018 Omnibus spending bill. The bill included $6.25 billion to USDA for electric loans.