The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced $188m in loan guarantees to upgrade rural electric infrastructure, including over $18m in smart grid funding.

The funding will be used to finance the construction of over 1,000 miles of new or improved electric line.

Rural utilities which received loans under the USDA funding round include Seminole Electric Cooperative, Rayle Electric Membership, Goodhue County Cooperative Electric Association, Central Electric Power Cooperative, Central Rural Electric Cooperative, Black Hills Electric Cooperative and Lacreek Electric Association.

The projects, Black Hills Electric Cooperative in South Dakota, Central Rural Electric Cooperative in Oklahoma and Lacreek Electric Association serving South Dakota and Nebraska, include $9.8m for service improvements in Native American communities.

USDA agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said funding for rural electric utilities is a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s continuing effort to develop a new rural economy.

"It is also part of our ‘all-of- the- above’ strategy to support development of energy from a variety of renewable resources. USDA’s support of rural electric utilities’ deployment of smart grid technologies will increase efficiencies, reliability, and bring more jobs to rural America," Vilsack added.

USDA said since 2011, rural utilities service borrowers have used its funding to invest about $464m in smart grid improvements.