Co-ops & Community Jobs

U.S. helps cooperatives modernize infrastructure

Co-ops & Community Jobs
Visiting in Hillsborough with Piedmont EMC president Randy Brecheisen (left), Sec. Vilsack said, “These loans will help ensure that rural areas can retain existing businesses, support new ones and have reliable, up-to-date infrastructure.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in September visited Piedmont EMC, the Touchstone Energy cooperative based in Hillsborough, to announce the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture had reached its $250 million goal to finance electric grid modernization technologies. Vilsack also announced nine rural electric cooperatives and utilities in 10 states, including North Carolina, will receive loan guarantees to make improvements to generation and transmission facilities and implement grid modernization technologies.

As part of President Obama's "Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future," the administration has outlined a number of public and private initiatives focused on upgrading the electric grid in rural America. These technologies will facilitate the integration of renewable sources of electricity into the grid, help avoid blackouts and restore power quicker when outages occur, and reduce the need for new power plants.

Piedmont EMC received a $30 million guaranteed loan from USDA to extend its system by 52 miles and help provide service to about 1,000 new member-consumers. The cooperative will also increase capacity for 100 current consumers and improve the reliability of about 40 miles of line. The cooperative installed a new automated meter system (AMI) with funds from a previous loan and will invest approximately $150,000 of the funds from this new loan on new AMI meters for the 1,000 new member consumers.

The cooperative's president R. G. "Randy" Brecheisen said, "Piedmont EMC is proud of the long and successful partnership with the USDA, dating back to 1938, that has been based on a common mission of serving rural America and improving the quality of life for our member-owners. We depend on access to capital through loans from the Rural Utilities Service to extend lines to new consumers, maintain our more than 3,000 miles of distribution lines and to fund investments in new technologies."

Piedmont EMC is a nonprofit member-owned electric utility serving 31,000 consumers in parts of Alamance, Caswell, Durham, Granville, Orange and Person counties

Vilsack also announced that two other cooperatives in North Carolina will receive loan guarantees. Brunswick EMC in Brunswick and Columbus counties will receive a $21.5 million loan to build and improve 220 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. Edgecombe-Martin County EMC, based in Tarboro, will receive a $6.4 million loan. Edgecombe-Martin EMC is susceptible to extreme storm conditions, including hurricanes and Northeasters. The cooperative will use about $1 million of the loan to install automatic meters.

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