WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an effort to increase funding for renewable energy power projects, Senator Lisa Murkowski today won Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approval for an amendment to comprehensive energy legislation that will provide federal grants to help utilities build renewable energy projects. The amendment, which Murkowski drafted with Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, creates a Renewable Energy Construction Grant program that will provide up to 50-50 federal matching grants for the construction of wind, geothermal and ocean energy projects nationwide and small hydroelectric projects exclusively in Alaska. “The use of renewable energy provides a host of benefits to the nation through reducing our dependence on imported oil and cutting greenhouse gas emissions,” said Senator Murkowski. “Unfortunately, renewable projects are more costly to build than conventional power plants. This grant program will provide federal assistance to make renewable energy more affordable for utilities and local governments which will aid electricity consumers nationwide.” If Congress simply allocated one quarter of the budget proposed for renewable energy research and development next year toward construction of new plants, the grant program would provide $800 million for renewable energy construction. Projects in Alaska that could benefit from the grant program include the Fire Island wind farm in Anchorage, Chena Hot Springs geothermal project outside of Fairbanks, and several other geothermal, biomass, ocean energy and small hydro projects statewide. “While Congress authorizes and appropriates funds each year for renewable energy research and development, we have discovered that much of this money is not getting to communities pursuing alternative energy projects. We’ve found this to be particularly true in Alaska,” said Senator Stevens. “By creating a federal share through the establishment of a Renewable Energy Construction Grant program, Congress would help ensure that funds are being allocated for the actual construction of these essential energy projects.” The grant program, open to all types of utilities, states and local governments and Native tribes and Native corporations in Alaska, would supplement the current federal Production Tax Credit that cuts taxes on electricity by up to 1.9 cents per kilowatt to encourage renewable energy developments. The amendment was included in a measure that contains a major package of energy efficiency provisions, new support for biofuels and funding for research and demonstration of technology to capture and sequester carbon dioxide. During the markup, the committee also approved a provision by Murkowski to provide assistance to companies to improve the energy efficiency of appliances and furnaces in buildings in cold climates. The bill also includes transportation fuel efficiency provisions similar to those Murkowski proposed in the REFRESH Act earlier this year. It authorizes $200 million a year for the next five years for battery research needed to make “plug-in” electric hybrid vehicles more feasible. ###