HARRISBURG, Penn. - Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell has approved a bill that establishes a $500 million fund to support alternative energy projects. Special Session House Bill 1 authorizes the Commonwealth Financing Authority to borrow $500 million, most of which will be split into six funding sources relating to energy efficiency and renewable energy: $80 million in grants and loans for solar energy projects; $100 million in grants, loans, and rebates for up to 35 percent of the cost of solar energy projects at residences and small businesses; $165 million in grants and loans for alternative energy projects, excluding solar energy, at businesses and local government facilities; $25 million for wind and geothermal energy projects; $40 million to help start-up businesses involved in energy efficiency technologies; and $25 million in grants and loans to improve the energy efficiency of new and existing homes and small business buildings. An additional $65 million will go toward pollution control technologies and to help low-income families pay their energy bills.
The bill defines alternative energy projects as projects that employ alternative fuels; biomass, wind, solar, and geothermal energy sources; waste energy; waste coal; clean coal technologies; and other energy sources included in the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act. It also includes facilities that manufacture products or parts for alternative energy, alternative fuels, energy efficiency, or energy conservation, as well as research and development facilities for alternative energy and alternative fuels. Last but not least, it includes projects “for the development or enhancement of rail transportation systems that deliver alternative fuels or high-efficiency locomotives.” The bill places no time limit on the payout of the various funds, and it pays off the debt by drawing $40 million per year from the state’s general fund for the next 30 years.
In addition to the $500 million fund, the bill creates a Consumer Energy Program that is funded at $15 million for the next three fiscal years, then gradually decreases to $8 million by the 2015-16 fiscal year, for a total of $100 million. Of that, $92.5 million will support loans, grants, and rebates for up to 25 percent of the cost of energy efficiency improvements to homes and small businesses, while $5 million will support low-interest loans for energy efficiency improvements to homes. An additional $50 million will be available over the next eight years to support tax credits for 15 percent of the cost of alternative energy projects, capped at $1 million per year for each project.