SCHOOLS GO WITH LOANS FOR GREEN ENERGY

Panel Approves bill to help schools ‘go green’

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Renewable energy seems to be all the buzz at the Statehouse this session,

as lawmakers offer bills designed to do everything from creating training programs

for the “new energy economy,” to requiring homebuilders to offer prospective

homebuyers a solar-power option.

Assistant House Majority Leader Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, previewed the latest effort

to boost alternative energy at a press conference at the Capitol on March 29.

The next day Kerr officially unveiled House Bill 1312, concerning renewable energy

and energy efficiency for schools, which would bring together two of this session’s

hot-button issues: renewable energy projects and education.

HB 1312, “The Renewable for Schools” proposal, would create a plan through the

Governor’s Energy Office and the State Treasury to provide school districts with

low-interest loans.

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The districts would use the loan money to install solar panels

or wind turbines, or to convert diesel-powered school buses to battery or

hybrid-electric power. Kerr said the program would allow money now spent on

energy to be used on classroom education instead.

The low-interest loans are funded by the Public School Permanent Fund,

which was created in the 1800s, when the state set aside vast acreages of land

for the benefit of schoolchildren. Proceeds from these land sales have been

invested by the state and currently are available for this program at a 5.1%

interest rate. The balance of the fund is currently estimated at $581 million.

Kerr hopes these renewable energy loans will reduce energy costs for schools,

promote energy independence and provide students with an opportunity to learn

about renewable energy technologies.

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“The Renewable for Schools program creates a win-win-win situation,”

said Colorado State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, who has partnered with Kerr

to promote the bill. “It’s a win for taxpayers and schools who will save money

on energy costs, providing more funds for the classroom. It’s a win for the state,

which will see a high investment return on our dollars loaned to schools, and

it’s a win for the economy as we create new ?green’ jobs across the state.”

There was, however, opposition at the House Education Committee meeting on

Monday from Barbara Walker, executive officer of the Independent Bankers of

Colorado. Walker also testified on behalf of the Colorado Bankers Association.

Walker said local community banks would not be able to compete with the low

interest rates offered by the state and would lose business under HB 1312.

Although Walker could not pinpoint the exact percentage rate that community banks

would offer school districts for renewable energy loans, she said that in typical

financing through a community bank, municipal financing rates ? those that a

school district can obtain ? would always be below the market rate available to the

commercial public. She said HB 1312 would put community banks in direct

competition with the state to appropriate loans, thereby putting local community

banks at risk for failure on these types of loans.

Kerr said the difference between loans through HB 1312 and loans school districts

could obtain through community banks is that, under his proposal, the school

district is required to apply for a loan through the Governor’s Energy Office.

He said the office would evaluate each project application before making its

recommendations to the state treasurer.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 23RD June 2009

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