Chafee is seeking shift in control of energy fund

The $500,000, no-interest state Renewable Energy Development Fund loan that helped convince UtiliData, Inc. to choose Providence for its future headquarters is the kind of business-enticement deal the R.I. Economic Development Corporation has championed. More

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FOCUS: ENERGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

Chafee is seeking shift in control of energy fund

'That $500,000 helps us accelerate bringing people on quicker,' said Scott Depasquale, Braemar Energy Ventures partner.
Posted 2/20/12

The $500,000, no-interest state Renewable Energy Development Fund loan that helped convince UtiliData, Inc. to choose Providence for its future headquarters is the kind of business-enticement deal the R.I. Economic Development Corporation has championed.

The loan leverages a $4.5 million investment from Boston venture-capital firm Braemar Energy Ventures that is spurring UtiliData to leave Spokane, Wash., for the East Coast with a relatively modest public stake.

But the UtiliData deal may be one of the last Renewable Energy Development Fund loans the EDC takes the lead on.

Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget, if approved by the General Assembly, would move the renewable energy fund under the control of the governor’s Office of Energy Resources.

The move is part of Chafee’s plan to streamline state government and focus decision-making within his administration.

Like the EDC, energy-related functions now held by the Department of Environmental Management and those of the Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council will also be shifted to Office of Energy Resources control, according to the budget.

“The concern is that policymaking and programs on [energy] are scattered and we are trying to look at streamlining state government,” state Director of Administration Richard Licht told Providence Business News about the move. “When this fund was originally created it was in the governor’s Office of Energy Resources. A couple of years ago it was transferred.”

Another reason for consolidating work on renewables was the creation by the General Assembly last year of a new renewable energy coordinating council that is just beginning to meet and is chaired by Licht.

As a candidate and in his early days as governor, Chafee was critical of some of the state’s business-incentive deals, but Licht said the move should not be interpreted as a criticism of the renewable energy program or the EDC’s handling of it.

“This is not based on any concern about the performance of the EDC,” Licht said. “It’s a desire to have a more integrated policymaking group.”

The Renewable Energy Development Fund is paid for by an electric-bill surcharge and has a cash balance of $5.8 million.

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