Shelby Energy Cooperative continues to serve farms in the 85 or so miles between Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, but in recent years, an outlet mall and a large bourbon distillery have created new economic opportunities.
“There’s a lot going on and our system is growing as a result. It’s a good problem to have,” said Debra J. Martin, president and CEO of Shelby Energy Cooperative, of a $22.3 million federal loan it received to build and maintain 112 miles of line. “The loan will let us make upgrades as things continue to grow.”
Based in Shelbyville, Kentucky, Shelby EC is one of 14 electric co-ops in 12 states receiving $276 million in federal loans to improve rural electric infrastructure and $65 million for smart grid technologies. Altogether, the loans will build and improve more than 1,800 miles of line to meet current and future needs of rural residents and businesses.
The loan guarantees come from the Rural Development Electric Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Investing in our nation’s electric infrastructure is fundamental for rural economic growth,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement, noting that investments in electric service are vital for economic growth and quality-of-life improvements in rural America.
“USDA’s longstanding partnerships with rural electric cooperatives help ensure that rural areas have affordable, reliable electric service,” Perdue said.
In addition to Kentucky, the other states receiving loans are Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Virginia.
More investments in rural infrastructure are a key recommendation of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity established by President Trump last year. Findings from the task force are in a 44-page report released in January.
A list of loan recipients can be found here.
Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer at NRECA.