Energy loans could fuel new employment

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LANSING — Revolving loans would be available for renewable energy projects if a bill under consideration in the Senate passes.

Michigan received $82 million under the federal stimulus program to use for renewable energy projects, and $10 million of it can be used to create a revolving loan fund.

Energy efficiency in government buildings and energy manufacturing projects are the focus for loans, said Amy Butler, Bureau of Energy Systems director, the state unit that would review loan applications.

“The bill is a mechanism to get more money flowing through the state,” said Amanda Price, a legislative aide to Sen. Patricia Birkholz, R-Saugatuck, the bill’s sponsor.

The amount loaned and the time in which the loan must be repaid would be flexible because different energy projects require different resources, said Butler.

The loans are revolving, so as soon as they are paid back, the money can go out again for other projects. The goal is to use stimulus money to generate as many renewable energy projects as possible.

Senators Bill Hardiman, R-Grand Rapids, Bruce Patterson, R-Canton, Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Township, Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, John Pappageorge, R-Troy, and Jason Allen, R-Traverse City, also have signed on to the bill.

Butler said she is confident of the success of renewable energy loans because applications have been high for already established federally funded grants (see related story).

She said the loans would bring money and jobs to the state, especially in renewable energy technology and the manufacture of parts for renewable energy equipment.

Dan Greenfield, director of investor relations and corporate communications at ATI Engineered Products, said job creation would be important to his company, which casts wind turbine components and other products. It is the parent company of ATI Casting Service in Alpena.

Many ATI employees were laid off when the economy spiraled downward and orders declined, he said.

“If the bill is good for the wind industry in the U.S., then it will help wind industry employees,” he said.

Todd Artley, an electrical instructor at Alpena Community College, is more skeptical about the potential impact of the loan program.

“Grant money will work for the initial installation, but it will not defray the costs of energy,” he said. “I don’t think it will create jobs. After installation, few maintenance people will be needed.”

The bill cleared the Senate Energy, Policy and Public Utilities Committee unanimously and is now in the Senate.

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