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Friday, March 2, 2007

Governor Rendell's speech at Pittsburgh Tech Council Luncheon

"I truly believe, that over the decade from 2010 to 2020, the production of alternative energies will have an impact the equivalent of what information technology has had on our economy."

-Governor Ed Rendell at Pittsburgh Technology Council luncheon on Friday March 2nd, 2007

After attending Governor Rendell's speech today at the Sheraton at Station Square, I came away believing that the Governor is both very knowledgeable and passionate about making the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania a leading alternative energy state. Governor Rendell covered a lot of ground in the 1 hour he spoke to us, and gave us an overview of the plan while answering some tough questions from the crowd. This was my first time at an event with a government official of Rendell's stature and I was pumped after getting the opportunity to ask Governor Rendell a question regarding his solar rebates one on one.

Some other highlights for me personally - I was able to meet several "green" entrepreneurs, including an individual working on coal gasification technology, several state and local politicians, and also representatives of Western PA businesses who have a stake in the Governor's energy initiatives.

Here are some highlights from Rendell's speech:

1. The Governor is a big believer in cellulosic ethanol. One test plant is currently under development in Clearfield County while several others are in the planning stages.

2. The State has billions of tons of Waste coal which will be put to use in coal gasification and biodiesel plants across the state. There are not any of plants in the US currently utilizing the Ficher-Tropsch process, which is a process that breaks down coal or biomass into liquefied form to be used as synthetic fuels.

3. The Governor is working to get more gas stations to include E85 at the pump. The Sheetz gas station chain has been introducing several E85 pumps at their stores throughout Western PA. Governor Rendell also mentioned that E10 should be mandatory at all gas pumps throughout the state, as it is in parts of the Philadelphia area.

Well, there is a lot more but I want to close with a remark on the Energy initiatives solar incentives. The Governor's plan includes $200 million in solar installation rebates to homeowners and businesses. The plan will give a rebate of up to 50% of the cost of the installation. My question to the Governor was this:

"Assuming a typical house in PA requires a 2.5kw solar system, the cost would be $30,000. After the 50% rebate and $2,000 federal tax credit, the cost drops to $12,000 to $13,000. How is the average homeowner in PA going to afford that payment, even after the rebates and federal credit? Have you worked out an agreements with financial institutions to offer low interest rate financing for the $12k to $13k out of pocket expense for a solar system?"
Governor Rendell's reponse, after realizing I was talking about the financing of the purchase and not the program's rebates:
"I haven't thought of that but that is a great question, it's something I will have to think about."
So, I think the plan looks great on paper but how many of us can really afford to plunk down over $10k for a solar system? Without special financing programs this would be close to another car payment for some of us. I think the Governor was sincere when he said he would think about it and I hope to see an announcement of a solar financing plan for homeowners down the road. Please post any comments if there is anything specific you would like to know about the plan or Governor Rendell's speech today, there is a ton more to talk about. I could go on for several more paragraphs (I have some amusing video clips from the event too!)

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