US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced an $8m investment in smart grid technology to improve rural electric service for customers in 12 states.

The USDA Rural Utilities acting administrator John Padalino has made the latest announcement on Vilsack’s behalf during an annual meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in New Orleans.

"Upgrading rural infrastructure sets the stage for economic development, because access to reliable, affordable electricity is essential to rural job creation," Padalino said.

Funds will be provided to electric cooperatives and utilities to improve generation and transmission facilities and implement smart grid technologies.

Over $8m support for smart grid technologies would help utilities make efficiency improvements to the electric grid.

North Dakota’s Central Power Electric Cooperative and Oklahoma’s Cotton Electric Cooperative are among the utilities to receive the funds.

CPEC plans to use a $33.7m loan guarantee to build 141 miles of transmission line and make other system improvements, while CEC will also build 229 miles of power line using the $24.8m loan guarantee.