Today, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced that the USDA will fund $900 million of smart grid technologies and improvements to generation and transmission facilities, as part of the Obama Administration commitment to supporting energy efficiency and economic growth in rural America. These loans to rural electric cooperatives will help consumers save money and create jobs across 14 states.
"Rural electric cooperatives provide direct jobs and support economic growth in our rural communities," Vilsack said in a statement. "By financing electrical system improvements USDA and the Obama Administration help ensure sustainable growth and business job creation. Investments in smart grid technologies will give rural electric utilities and their consumers one more tool to better manage use of electricity, increase reliability and lower costs."
USDA’s investments reflect the Obama Administration’s commitment to modernizing the Nation’s electric grid for a 21st century economy. In June, the Administration outlined a series of efforts to build new transmission lines and apply digital technologies to the electric system to ensure a secure and reliable grid, catalyze innovation, and create jobs of the future. The Administration released a policy framework that promotes cost-effective smart grid investments, fosters innovation to spur the development of new products and services, empowers consumers to make informed decisions with better energy information, and secures the grid against cyber-attacks.
Smart grid technologies can help electric utilities and grid operators better manage the Nation’s electric infrastructure, including during extreme events like Hurricane Irene and long-duration heat waves. Additionally, these new technologies will give consumers easy-to-use tools that will allow better monitoring and management of their own energy consumption. These tools, which include new web sites, smart meters, and Internet-connected thermostats, have the ability to lower consumers' electric bills and occupy one part of a new economic ecosystem in which grid-oriented entrepreneurs are starting new businesses and creating jobs.
Nick Sinai is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer