Governor Funds Renewable Energy in Massachusetts

Just weeks after former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift’s recommendation that the state tap into the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust (MRET) to alleviate a growing budget deficit, the new Governor signaled his own intentions for the funds.

Lowell, Massachusetts – January 24, 2003 [] They’re going exactly where they where were intended. Governor Mitt Romney outlined a plan to maintain the focus of the MRET in support of economic development as well as the creation of renewable sources of energy that will have a positive environmental benefit. “The Trust Fund has been growing for years, and I believe now is the time to refocus its assets in such a manner that it can become a major economic springboard for the Commonwealth by focusing on job creation in the Renewable Energy sector,” said Romney. The Trust was created through the electric restructuring law in 1998 and is funded through a monthly surcharge on electric utility bills. The funds, totaling US$160 million, are administered by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC). Renewable Energy trust funds, established to both encourage the domestic Renewable Energy industry as well as improve the environment, are being eyed in many states as sources of funds to bridge mammoth budget gaps that threaten everything from social programs to education. “There’s an understanding that trust funds are set up for specific purposes in mind and folks are generally respectful of that,” said Pat Larkin, Deputy Director of the MTC. “The Romney administration has been very thoughtful and has recognized the value of strategic investments in the Renewable Energy Industry in Massachusetts. It’s clearly a signal that the issue of the economy and environment are critical concerns for the administration.” Romney announced the formation of a new US$15 million Green Energy Fund to provide equity capital, loans and management assistance to Massachusetts-based Renewable Energy businesses. A professional manager will be recruited to manage the fund. The Governor also touted US$9 million in new financing to five companies in the forefront of Renewable Energy development. The package includes a US$1.5 million loan for a pilot production line at Konarka, a Lowell company that served as the setting for today’s news conference. Konarka has been developing cutting-edge solar technology developed at the University of Massachusetts. Konarka’s photovoltaic (PV) technology is based on the dye-sensitized solar cell, a technology made possible through low temperature sintering of TiO2. The core of the dye-sensitized technology consists of nanometer-scale crystals of TiO2 semiconductor coated with a monolayer of light-absorbing dye and embedded in an electrolyte between the front and back electrical contacts. Photons in light are absorbed by the dye. According to the company, with low cost raw materials and relatively low cost manufacturing technology and processes, deposited thin films have the potential to provide more than a 50 percent reduction in cost relative to traditional crystalline cell modules. Several other companies were awarded funds from the Trust, including Nuvera, a Cambridge fuel cell company, which received a US$1.5 million grant and loan; Ameresco, the operator of a landfill gas facility in Chicopee, which signed a US$2 million clean energy agreement; Acumentrics, a Westwood fuel cell company, which received a US$1.5 million loan; and a Massachusetts Renewable Energy company whose name cannot be disclosed at this time due to SEC regulations, will receive US$2.5 million in funding for a major expansion. “Clean energy is a technology driven industry well suited to the state’s strengths,” said Doug Foy, Romney’s Chief of Commonwealth Development. “We have all the ingredients to be a leader in the sector – world-class universities, high-tech companies and a highly educated workforce.” Bob Pozen, Romney’s Chief of Commerce and Labor, said states such as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are in direct competition with Massachusetts for economic expansions by fast-growing Renewable Energy companies. “By making targeted investments, we can support job growth, develop a cluster of Renewable Energy companies and have a positive effect on the environment at the same time,” said Pozen. Mitchell Adams, Executive Director of the MTC, said a growing Renewable Energy industry will help reduce America’s reliance on foreign sources of oil. “These investments make sense from an economic and environmental perspective, and have the added benefit of reducing our dependence on foreign energy supplies,” said Adams.
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