Konarka Technologies


Author(s): Peter J. Howe, Globe Staff
Date: January 23, 2003
Page: C5
Section: Business

With a new $160 million state trust fund promoting "green power" energy projects slow to award grants, Governor Mitt Romney moved yesterday to shift $24 million from the fund to job-promoting investments and loans for renewable-energy start-up companies around the state.
In an appearance at Lowell solar-energy start-up Konarka Technologies Inc., Romney announced $9 million in direct grants to Konarka and four other companies. He said he is also shifting $15 million from the trust to a new Green Energy Fund that will be overseen by a professional manager and will provide venture capital, loans, and management assistance to Bay State companies involved in energy production from solar, wind power, landfill gas, biomass, and other so-called green sources as an alternative to petroleum products and coal. The renewable energy trust is funded by a small tax on electric bills, now totaling about 40 cents a month for the typical homeowner, imposed as part of the 1997 state electric industry deregulation law. Outside of funds earmarked for environmental upgrades at trash-to-energy plants, less than $30 million has actually been disbursed so far, despite the resolution two years ago of a lawsuit challenging the tax. The Westborough-based Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a quasi-public state agency, manages the trust.Said Romney: "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."
Grants announced yesterday include:
* a $2 million grant to Ameresco for its Chicopee facility that uses methane gas from an old landfill to generate electricity;
* a $1.5 million loan for a pilot-scale production line for Konarka, which is licensing solar photovoltaic technology from the University of Massachusetts;* a $1.5 million grant and loan package for Cambridge fuel-cell maker Nuvera;
* a $1.5 million loan to Westwood fuel-cell maker Acumentrics;
* and a $2.5 million loan to another state renewable energy company whose name is not being revealed because of federal securities disclosure regulations.
Paul W. Gromer, director of the Solar Energy Business Association of New England, said the moves announced by Romney yesterday will help make "Massachusetts a national leader in the renewable energy industry. These investments will pay off in jobs, economic development, and a cleaner environment."
Days before leaving as acting governor, Romney predecessor Jane M. Swift had suggested draining the renewable energy trust to help close the state's estimated $3 billion budget deficit next year, saying that its goals were important but "even a basic sense of priorities suggests" it would be better used avoiding cuts in human services and school aid.
Peter J. Howe can be reached at howe@globe.com.

Copyright 2003 New York Times Company