Topeka — Federal stimulus dollars that were supposed to go toward making thousands of Kansans’ homes more energy efficient will now fund two renewable energy projects because the state could not spend the money fast enough, state officials said Tuesday.
“I’m sure there are some people who will not receive money. I take all the blame right here. We did the best we could at the time,” Kansas Secretary of Commerce Pat George told the House-Senate Committee on Energy and Environmental Policy.
The state received $38.3 million in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to set up a program that offered low-interest loans to Kansans to make their homes more energy efficient.
But the program started slowly. At first the interest rates weren’t competitive, and the requirements to qualify were relatively high.
During the 2011 session, the Kansas Legislature directed the KCC to work with the Kansas Board of Regents, and that resulted in nearly $7 million being used for energy projects on college campuses.
But with the clock ticking toward the April 1, 2012, deadline, and the bulk of the grant still unspent, Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration pulled funding from the program and received federal approval to spend $20 million on two renewable biofuels projects. In addition, $1.5 million has been set aside to take care of the home efficiency loans that had been in the process of approval when the state redirected the funding.
Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, and Rep. Annie Kuether, D-Topeka, expressed concern about the change in funding. “Business is now getting the benefit. The people we serve have been cut out of the loop,” Kuether said.
George said the two projects would create jobs and position Kansas as a leader in biofuels.
Some $15.6 million of the stimulus funds will go toward the purchase of biomethane digester equipment technology at an ethanol facility operated by Western Plains Energy near Oakley. The company’s power plant will be converted to use biomethane produced from cattle manure instead of natural gas to run the biofuel production process, according to the Commerce Department.
And $4.9 million will be used to support a biomass harvesting, handling and delivery demonstration project operated by the Kansas Alliance for Biorefining and Bioenergy.