WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall today announced a $6,646,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to install smart grid technology and make improvements to electric generation and transmission facilities in rural northeastern New Mexico and surrounding states. Southwestern Electric Cooperative, Inc., the recipient of the loan, will use the funding to build and improve 65 miles of distribution lines and make other system improvements, including smart grid technology. "We need to make sure rural New Mexico has access to affordable energy," said Udall. "With nearly $700,000 from this loan going to smart grid technology, Southwestern Electric will be able to better manage their system, meaning lower electric bills for customers." Southwestern Electric Coop serves 1,000 customers in New Mexico and is based in Clayton. Due to the remoteness of its rural service, Southwestern's customers have the highest electric rates in the state. Smart grid technology helps reduce electric bills for customers by allowing the utility to more efficiently use their assets and reduce energy demand during peak times of the day.