New energy grant could help jump start rural Kansas in renewable energy and energy efficiency

As Ray Hammarlund, director of energy programs at the KCC, explained to CEP, the grant money will be used to help rural Kansas entities apply for existing federal funds to implement renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The focus will be applying for CREBS and 9006 grants.

CREBs stands for Clean and Renewable Energy Bonds - basically interest-free loans for financing qualified energy projects. They are funded by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, through the federal Production Tax Credit for wind and solar. Rural electric cooperatives, municipal electric utilities, and government entities (including tribal councils) are eligible. (If the PTC is not renewed these funds are in jeopardy.)

9006 rural development funds come through the Farm Bill. They provide grants and loans to agricultural producers and rural small business for assistance with renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. Rural areas with populations of 50,000 or less (and that’s most of KS, except for about six or seven counties, right?) are eligible.

The one-time funds are a first step in Hammarlund’s larger plan - to make such applications a long-term part of the Kansas Energy Office.

“These are established federal funds,” he says. “Kansas is not claiming its share. We can’t let that happen.”

Other neighboring states have filed far more applications, and reaped much larger awards per grant.

“Last year Kansas filed 12 applications for a total of $232,000,” Hammarlund says. “Nebraska filed 102 applications for $12 million. Iowa filed 55 applications and was awarded $17 million. Kansas absolutely needs to get in on these programs.”

Part of the grant funds will go to hiring a person to be a go-between Kansas applicants and the federal funding entities. The job will also include analyzing other states’ successful applications, and strategizing how the grant and loan funds can be tailored to Kansas’s own energy situation. Hammarlund is already interviewing candidates for the job.

“Our office has so many great partners who are helping this program off the ground - Department of Commerce, Small Business, K-State Research and Extension - there’s so many,” Hammarlund said. “The key will be getting this expertise centralized, with one person dedicated to tracking it and then helping Kansas applicants take advantage of the fantastic resources that this state already has in terms of energy.”

What does a successful application look like? While Hammarlund wants to wait on some of the analysis before he fully answers this question, he does have a pretty good idea already. Community wind projects are a definite possibility. Solar projects might be right for some communities. Energy efficiency is also important.

“Energy efficiency - saving energy - is always low-hanging fruit,” Hammarlund said. “Some of the smaller areas don’t have as many resources to make these programs happen. Getting grants or loans could really jump start their programs.”

Interested in knowing more, or being one of the communities that applies for these grants? Call the KCC at 785-271-3100 and ask for Ray Hammarlund.

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