For more on the financial crisis, check outGlobeSt.com's Webinar, "Wall Street In a Freefall—TheWinners and Losers."

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For once, Wall Street red ink may help the future becomedecidedly greener--thanks to the US government, which isencouraging sustainable energy in both its economic bailout packageand through a Department of Energy program.

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In order to attract recalcitrant congressmen to approve the$700-billion Wall Street bailout bill that had been rejected inlate September, various earmarks and sweeteners were included thatensured its passage on Oct. 3. But perhaps none will have a moreenduring benefit than rolling the Energy Improvement and ExtensionAct of 2008 into the bill, thereby extending credits for renewableenergy use. The result could decrease the price and thus increasethe use of solar panels and other renewable energy sources in newconstruction.

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The bill extends the 30% investment tax credit for solar energyproperty and qualified fuel cell property, as well as the 10%investment tax credit for microturbines, through 2016. Mostaffected, observers say, will be the solar business. The eight-yearextension of the tax credits removes most concerns about investingin solar technology.

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"This should drop the cost of panels," says Jerry Yudelson, aprincipal of Tucson-based Yudelson Associates, a green buildingconsultancy. "This gives some continuity, almost for the firsttime, for solar tax credits."

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The bill also includes a number of incentives including:extending production tax credits for wind and refined coal to Dec.31, 2009 and to Dec. 31, 2010 for other sources; and a new 10%investment tax credit for combined heat and power systems andgeothermal heat pumps. It also authorizes $800 million of new cleanrenewable energy bonds to finance facilities that generateelectricity from wind, closed-loop biomass, open-loop biomass,geothermal, small irrigation, qualified hydropower, landfill gas,marine renewable and trash combustion facilities. Including the Actin the bailout sped up an existing process.

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"It's hugely important, but all it really did was extend someexisting laws that we figured would be extended," says MarkPeternell, VP of sustainability for Jacksonville, FL-based RegencyCenters, which has developed a GreenGenuity program that ispursuing LEED certification for 20% of its new projects in 2008,40% in 2009 and 60% in 2010, and extending sustainable practices toits existing centers. "But without that credit, solar is anon-starter."

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"The big problem (behind passage of the independent bill) wasalways the cost," Yudelson says. "But when you're talking about$700 billion, $20 million doesn't seem like much."

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And it's not the only recent example of the US governmentencouraging energy management. This week, Regency was selected toparticipate in the US Department of Energy (DOE) Net-Zero EnergyCommercial Building Initiative (CBI) as a National Account. Theshopping center developer was chosen among 21 companies in retail,finance and commercial real estate to work with two DOE NationalLaboratories to speed market adoption of energy-saving technologiesand produce energy-efficient buildings. The $15-million awards canbe continued in future years, depending on success and fundsavailability.

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"The focus is on energy efficiency, a lot of which is designexpertise, such as what parts of a building need insulation, andtracking electrical loads," Peternell says. "[For example,] typicalretail buildings have individual HVAC units. A central providesbenefits," as long as energy use is properly apportioned among thetenants.

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The goal is to enable cost-effective energy savings of 50% abovethe standard set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeratingand Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE 90.1) for new commercialbuilding designs, and a savings of 30% for retrofits to existingbuildings.

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"This is an ambitious project which is designed to improve theenergy efficiency of commercial buildings. Working with leading UScompanies in a variety of sectors, we believe that we can achievethe nation's goals of reducing energy use and carbon emissions,plus set an example that other commercial building owners canfollow," says John Mizroch, US Department of Energy actingassistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, inthe announcement of the program.

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Most important, the strategies created will be shared throughoutcommercial building development. "The best practices," Peternellsays. "will be shared."

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