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Morrow, Umatilla and Union counties are getting a $12 million boost in federal funding for smart grid technologies.
Hermiston's Umatilla Electric Cooperative, which provides service to nearly 16,000 customers across the three counties, will use the funding to connect 645 new consumers and to build and improve 93 miles of line with smart grid technologies.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Margi Hoffmann on Monday, Jan. 30, announced the investment, which is part of more than $89.6 million the department is spending to expand and modernize part of Eastern Oregon's rural electric grid and increase grid security.
Smart grid can be a catalyst for broadband and other telecommunications services in unserved and underserved rural areas in addition to improving grid security and reliability, according to Rural Development.
"As Oregon's rural communities grow, investing in critical infrastructure becomes all the more important," Hoffmann said. "This funding will help thousands of Eastern Oregonians access energy that is more reliable and more efficient, so that even our most remote households and small businesses can thrive."
This investment is one of 64 projects funded through USDA RD's Electric Loan Program, which 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. Nearly half of the awards will help finance infrastructure improvements in underserved communities.
In the coming months, USDA will announce additional energy infrastructure financing. The Biden-Harris administration'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, along with programs such as the U.S ag department's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program, will help rural utilities make energy cleaner, more reliable and more affordable.