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Coming to terms The New Jersey Energy Resilience Bank making it easier to get Sandy loans

Mitch Carpen, executive director, New Jersey Energy Resilience Bank.-(PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

Millions of gallons of raw — in some cases, untreated — sewage poured into New Jersey rivers, canals and lakes during Hurricane Sandy.

Putting the euphemism aside: it was a lot of poop. And part of the reason it entered the Garden State’s waterways was the power outages that struck wastewater treatment facilities.

How’s that for throwing the critical role of power at these facilities into stark relief?

That’s why the cornerstone of the Chris Christie administration’s efforts to clean up the legacy left behind by major Sandy outages — known as the Energy Resilience Bank — began by targeting water and wastewater treatment plants.

The New Jersey Energy Resilience Bank, the first public infrastructure bankrolling program in the nation to focus on energy resilience, allocated $65 million of its initial $200 million budget to public water systems that were affected by the October 2012 storm.

The program, run jointly by the state Board of Public Utilities and the Economic Development Authority, was created in July to help finance the implementation of resilient solutions that might have otherwise been too costly.

“And it’s very attractive financing terms,” said the program’s executive director, Mitch Carpen. “Forty percent of the funding offered to the wastewater treatment facility is in an incentive structure: a 20 percent grant with 20 percent performance-based loan forgiveness.”

Low-interest, amortizing loans will be available for the remaining 60 percent.

“The product sells itself,” Carpen said.

The funding can be utilized for distributed energy resources — including combined heat and power, fuel cells and off-grid solar inverters with battery storages — that allow facilities to remain operational while the grid is down.

But the program’s budget, funded by the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program, is meant to offer these financing options to critical facilities besides just water treatment plants, such as hospitals and schools.

Brett Johnson

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