Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Representative Peter Welch (D) have announced a $7.4 million federal loan for electric power grid improvements, including new smart meter components in Washington, Orange, and Caledonia Counties.
The Washington Electric Cooperative (WEC) of East Montpelier, which will use the money to fund construction of 15 miles of new distribution line and improve 28 miles of existing power lines to improve service to the Co-op’s members, supplies electricity to residents and businesses in 41 rural communities. The co-op gets most of its power from renewable energy sources
Senator Leahy says, “Rural electric cooperatives are building much of the foundation for a smarter electric grid to better serve Vermonters. I am delighted that USDA is helping WEC to meet the challenges of deploying our smart grid and improving power distribution in Vermont. These crucial steps will improve service and reliability and help control customers’ costs.”
Senator Sanders adds: “This is great news for Washington County. Smart grid technology can help consumers save energy and save money, and also improves outage response which is critical for rural electric customers in Vermont. This new opportunity will help Vermont continue to lead the nation in energy efficiency.”
According to Representative Welch, “Building a smarter electric grid is common sense. It will allow utilities to better serve their customers. And it will help Vermonters make more informed decisions about how to use energy more efficiently and cost effectively.”
WEC’s General Manager, Avram Patt, notes that the USDA “has been the Co-op’s principle lender since the Rural Electrification Administration first helped us bring power to unserved areas in 1939. They continue to play a critical role in helping us maintain and improve our system, and in bringing new technology to the most rural utility territory in Vermont.”
Approximately $1 million from the loan will go towards WEC’s installation of smart meters, part of eEnergy Vermont, the state’s blueprint for deploying smart grid technology. The smart grid project was originally launched in 2009 with a $69 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act federal grant.