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Voluntary Renewable Energy R&D Fund

Frequently Asked Questions

April 2002



What is the Renewable Energy R&D Fund?

The Voluntary Renewable Resource Research & Development Fund helps establish cleaner, more efficient ways of producing electricity.  The Fund supports research and development, as well as demonstration projects, for new ways to produce electricity using renewable energy sources.  Giving to the Fund is an easy, and tax-deductible, way to help improve our environment and economy, and promote increased national security.


What is renewable energy?

Renewable electricity, sometimes called “green power,” is generated from a source that either doesn’t run out, or is quickly renewed through natural processes, including wind; water (hydroelectric); sun (solar); wood (biomass); trash-to-energy plants (in conjunction with municipal recycling programs); tides; fuel cells; and geothermal energy.


Why is renewable energy so important?

Development and deployment of improved renewable electricity sources promotes energy independence, reduces environmental impacts, and offers the promise of improved national security.  It may also provide economic development benefits that flow from local research and development and community demonstration activities.


What are the environmental benefits of renewable power?

Environmental impacts differ among power sources.  The air emissions from polluting electric generating plants are a significant environmental concern for Maine.  For the most part, renewable energy is produced without a large amount of air emissions.  The construction and maintenance of both renewable and non-renewable power plants, however, may impact land, water and biological resources.  And while nuclear plants may have low air emissions, they present long-term waste storage issues.


How does renewable power benefit national security?

Development and deployment of improved renewable energy technologies in Maine and the nation promote national security by reducing our large and growing dependence on foreign oil for our energy needs.  Every step in that direction helps Maine and the nation.


But why do we need improved renewable technologies?

Researchers may be able to make renewable technologies that are more efficient and cleaner.  More efficient technologies produce more electricity with the same amount of renewable fuel, an important consideration because renewable electricity is often somewhat more expensive to produce than electricity using non-renewable fuels.  And some electricity generation technologies, even using the renewable sources mentioned above, produce air emissions that can be reduce if the technologies are improved.


Why was the Fund created?

The Maine Legislature created the Renewables Fund to give Maine consumers an easy way to help promote development of cleaner, more efficient renewable power technologies, and to support Maine educational institutions and community organizations that want to develop and demonstrate these technologies in Maine.


Is it really that easy to contribute?

Yes.  Consumers may make one-time or monthly contributions by notifying their electric distribution utility, and for monthly contributions, filling out a quick “check-off” form and sending it back to the utility.  You can contribute a dollar, five dollars, ten dollars or any other amount.  Once you notify your local electric utility that you want to contribute, it will add the amount you select to your bill each month.  If you ever want to stop contributing, simply notify your local utility and they’ll remove it from future bills.  Look for a bill insert from your electric utility on this opportunity, or call them anytime for the check-off form.


How does the Fund work?

Maine’s local utilities forward consumer contributions to a fund administered by the Maine State Planning Office, a branch of the Governor’s Office.  The State Planning Office then solicits grant proposals and awards funds to qualifying Maine universities and community organizations for projects that promote program goals.


Who else helps to administer the Fund?

The State Planning Office will work in partnership with the Maine Technology Institute, the Maine Technology Foundation, the Community Development Block Grant program, and others to implement the program.  The State Planning Office will also work with other scientists and professionals in the renewable energy field to evaluate proposals.


What organizations can get grants?

It depends on the type of grant.  The University of Maine System, Maine Maritime Academy, and the Maine Technical College System are eligible for research and development grants.  Maine-based non-profit organizations qualifying under the federal Internal Revenue Code, Section 501(c)(3), consumer-owned electric cooperatives, and community action programs are eligible for community demonstration grants.


Why is the program voluntary?

Although the Maine Legislature established a renewable portfolio requirement when it passed the law restructuring Maine’s electric industry, it decided that funding for additional efforts to promote renewable energy should be voluntary.


When will grants be given?

Grants may be awarded as soon as this year, depending on how quickly the Fund grows.


Can I really make a single, lump-sum contribution?

Yes.  One contributor sent in her entire federal tax refund check to the Fund! Every dollar promotes development of renewable resources whether it’s a monthly contribution on your utility bill or a lump-sum contribution.


Tell me again how I can contribute.

For both on-going and lump-sum contributions, contact your local electric distribution utility for a check-off form, fill it out, and send it back to them.  It’s that simple.


How can I get more information about the grants program?

Contact the R&D Fund Program Manager at the Maine State Planning Office at (207) 287-3261.