PROVIDENCE — Erika Niedowski’s love of biking was well known, so when the McKee administration decided to start offering discounts for e-bikes, it seemed fitting to name the state program after the late advocate. environment, journalist and former government staff member.
Governor Dan McKee paid tribute to his former employee in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Wednesday by announcing the creation of the Electric Bike Rebate Program in Memory of Erika Niedowski.a $250,000 initiative that is expected to help fund the purchase of up to 350 e-bikes statewide.
“He was just a great person who really had people’s best interests in mind when doing his job,” McKee said of Niedowski, who died two years ago.
Prior to working under McKee, Niedowski was a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, where she was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and then for the Associated Press in Providence. She left the PA for a communications position in the lieutenant governor’s office and, after earning a master’s degree in public policy, joined the Acadia Center, a regional clean energy organization. She died in 2020 at the age of 46 following an unexpected illness.
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Niedowski has been on rides of the century, but she also cycled more casually whenever she got the chance, longtime partner Patrick Laverty said. The governor’s office came up with the idea for the program and to honor him, he said.
“It’s definitely the fusion of two things that she really loved, which was being on her bike and protecting the environment,” Laverty said.
The new rebates are offered to Rhode Island residents through the Office of Energy Resources as part of an expansion of DRIVE EV, the recently relaunched state program aimed at lowering the costs of electric cars.
The state is using $250,000 from an existing charge on electric bills to fund e-bike rebates, $150,000 of which will be earmarked for people who meet low-to-moderate income guidelines. Only purchases made at a Rhode Island store on or after October 24, the program start date, are eligible for rebates.
The standard discount offered is up to $400 or 30% of the purchase price, whichever is lower. Low-to-moderate income applicants can get discounts of up to $1,000 or 75% of the price, again whichever is lower.
Discounts are not available for electric scooters or motorcycles. Only e-bikes equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling can be eligible. For more information about the program, visit drive.ri.gov.
The price of e-bikes can range from around $600 to several thousand dollars, said Chris Kearns, the state’s acting energy commissioner.
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The announcement took place at Trek Bicycle in East Providence in front of a display of the store’s entry-level e-bikes, which cost around $1,800. The store offers more advanced models that sell for up to $10,000.
Manager Adam Anderson said he saw a spike in interest last year, but it’s dwindled a bit this year. He thinks one of the reasons could be conflicts over driving electric models on bike paths. Nonetheless, the store expects a big push next year as interest grows.
“A lot of people are coming in and asking about them right now,” Anderson said.
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cKee enlisted the new rebate program as part of a broader effort to reduce carbon pollution, as set out in the Climate Act, the state law it signed into law last year. and which demands that Rhode Island achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. He described it as a whole-of-government initiative that also includes increasing the supply of offshore wind energy, intensifying the use of electric heat pumps and the electrification of public buses.
“This is an all-out effort to make sure we’re doing what we need to do to meet the carbon emissions targets we’ve set for ourselves,” McKee said.