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Bill would provide loans, grants for clean energy

House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi filed a mammoth clean energy bill yesterday that would provide loans and grants to municipalities to pursue renewable energy and provide a $2,000 credit for purchasers of hybrid vehicles.

The 364-page Green Communities Act would also expedite permitting for the siting of clean energy facilities, provide a $300 credit for businesses to offset the purchase of solar water heaters, and require state government to take steps to cut down on electricity use and set guidelines for energy-conscious state construction projects.

DiMasi, touting his bill as the first of its kind in the country, said that only a $1.4 million appropriation would be necessary to finance the tax credit portions of the bill and that overall the bill "is going to save an awful lot of money."

DiMasi was flanked by Representative Daniel E. Bosley of North Adams, cochairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies; and Representative Brian S. Dempsey of Haverhill, cochairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.

Dempsey, whose committee would be the first to review the bill, said he would be fairly aggressive in bringing the proposal up for a hearing in the next week. After that, he said, legislators will be taking "a great deal of testimony" over the next few months.

According to the speaker's office, some of the bill's highlights include:

A consolidation of funds for renewable energy and energy efficiency, which would allow up to half of the funds to be bonded in order to "leverage funds for clean energy purposes."

The promotion of a fuel-efficient fleet of state-owned vehicles.

The establishment of a pay-as-you save program to allow homeowners to purchase renewable energy products without any down payments.

The establishment of a commission to study biofuel siting.