Hybrid vehicles are getting a push from Gov. Ed Rendell. So are solar and wind power, biofuels and renewable energy.
The governor yesterday made $31.4 million in grants available to help businesses, municipalities, organizations and individuals develop and use clean technology, energy and alternative fuels.
The money builds on the administration’s four-year record of promoting and subsidizing new, clean energy and fuel sources, and is part of its effort to garner support for a proposed $850 million Energy Independence Fund.
Mr. Rendell said that investment fund – legislation to create it has been introduced in Harrisburg but not approved – would help cut consumer energy costs by $10 billion over the next decade, stabilize electricity rates for businesses, expand the state’s alternative fuel and clean energy industries, and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
“Pennsylvania is turning environmental and energy challenges into opportunities for economic development and energy independence,” said state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty, who hopscotched through Western Pennsylvania yesterday, highlighting energy conservation projects at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Works and a landfill near Johnstown, and promoting the administration’s proposal at the Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association in Pittsburgh.
“I invited them [venture capitalists] to invest in promising Pennsylvania companies that use renewable energy and energy efficient technologies,” she said.
The governor’s Energy Independence Fund aims to accelerate production of clean energy technology in the state by making more than $100 million available in venture capital, loans and grants so Pennsylvania firms can attract private sector investors.
Up to $500 million would be used to attract private investment in energy-related economic development, including solar manufacturing, advanced coal technologies, biofuels, energy conservation and energy demand management projects.
Another $244 million would be allocated to consumers and small businesses for programs that provide subsidies for replacing old air conditioners and refrigerators with more energy-efficient models, and rebates for solar panel and wind generator installation.
Ms. McGinty said the programs would provide $100 each for up to 440,000 households to help purchase replacement appliances and enable them to save $13 million in electricity costs.
The grants announced yesterday will be administered through the state’s three existing alternative energy programs.
The Alternative Fuels Incentive Grants program will get $16.4 million to help finance the production and use of cleaner-burning ethanol and biodiesel fuels. It will provide subsidies to Pennsylvania companies and farmers to help meet a production goal of 1 billion gallons a year by 2017. It also will provide $500 rebates to purchasers of hybrid vehicles.
The Pennsylvania Energy Development authority will get $10 million to fund a fourth round of clean energy projects, including solar energy, wind turbines, geothermal low-impact hydropower, and landfill gas.
The Energy Harvest program, started in 2003, will get $5 million for a fifth round of grants aimed at promoting awareness and building markets for cleaner or renewable energy technologies. One such project that received funding in an earlier round was a mixed-use housing and commercial development in South Fayette that will use efficient geothermal heating and cooling technology and solar power.
But Ms. McGinty said those programs, while successful, need a funding infusion to meet the demands of municipalities, investors and individuals.
“The grant opportunities in those three existing programs have delivered huge environmental and economic benefits to the state and created over 2,500 jobs,” she said.
“But since funding dollars are limited, the state is only able to support 10 percent of requests for energy dollars, losing out on at least $100 million in potential investments every year.”
By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
11 April 2007
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