Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (REC) was recently notified that it would receive funding in the amount of $23,500,000 in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan dollars to improve and construct distribution lines throughout the REC service area.

“We are very pleased with the loan and we will be using the funds to improve membership service by improving reliability and upgrading the size of our lines,” said Lisa McMeen, manager of financial services.

The funds, which should be available by the second quarter of 2012, will be used to improve service to the four county area which REC provides power.

“The majority of the funds will be used on single phase to three phase conversions which are smaller lines that most often provide service to homes and residential areas.  A portion of it will also go to upgrade some of our systems aging lines,” said Shane Burgess, system engineer 2.

A portion of the funds will also be used to replace the meter reading system.

“We will use some of the money to complete the installation of automated meters, which are currently in use on about one-half of the system,” said Cindy Hefner. “It will enable us to monitor lines, daily usage, outages and identify problems from a computer here at the office rather than making a service call. We won’t have to send a man out each time there is a problem, we will just send out a signal and it will read back to us here at headquarters.”

REC received a loan from the USDA in 2008 for similar upgrades and improvements.

“About every two to three years we put together a work plan that correlates with the loan that we will be receiving,” McMeen said. “We go through the USDA because of the great rates that receive. We have saved a great deal of money with the USDA and in turn saved our membership millions of dollars in costs.”

The loans will be given to rural electric cooperatives from 14 states, including Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Missouri and will benefit more than 19,000 consumers from those areas, according to the USDA.

“Rural electric cooperatives provide direct jobs and support economic growth in our rural communities,” said USDA Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “By financing electrical system improvements USDA and the Obama Administration help to ensure sustainable growth and business job creation. Investments in smart grid technologies will give rural electric utilities and their consumers one more tool to better manage use of electricity, increase reliability and lower costs.”

REC provides service to Ottawa, Delaware, Craig and Mayes Counties, as well as parts of Rogers, Adair and Cherokee Counties.

“We are very excited about the continued improvements and growth here at Northeast,” said McMeen. “We will be improving service for our membership and saving on the cost. It is a benefit to everyone involved and we are looking forward to putting the plan in motion.”

The work plan is expected to be used for the construction of nearly 40 miles of new distribution line and improve more than 200 miles of existing lines.