WASHINGTON, D.C. — Small businesses, which make up over 99 percent of businesses domestically and are responsible for half the country's economic output, are poised to take advantage of the same energy efficiency projects that Fortune 500 companies have adopted in recent years.

Under a pilot program included in the energy bill signed into law last month, the Small Business Administration (SBA) will offer low-cost loans for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) that want to improve their energy and fuel use.

The two-year pilot will lower the fees on 7(a) business loans for efficiency projects and fund grants for Small Business Development Centers that will offer free energy audits and efficiency trainings for small companies. The directive also requires the SBA to encourage SMEs to offer telecommuting as an option to employees, and give priority to small companies researching energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

Senators John Kerry and Olympia Snowe yesterday sent an open letter to EPA chief Stephen L. Johnson urging his agency to increase funding and promotion of its Energy Star for Small Business program. With an increase of $2 million per year, the Senators said, the program could significantly raise awareness about the Energy Star for Small Business program.

According to a recent survey of small businesses, only one-third of SMEs had implemented any energy efficiency programs, and just 60 percent of small business owners had even heard of the Energy Star for Small Business program.