Public and private groups are eligible for a portion of a $2 million state grant and loan program to encourage innovative energy saving or alternative energy projects.

"A secure energy future is vital to Utah and the nation," Gov. Norm Bangerter said Monday. "This unique program gives us the opportunity to tap Utah's technical expertise to help us meet our long-term energy needs."In announcing the program, Bangerter stressed no new tax dollars were involved. The money comes from billion-dollar escrow accounts set up through court settlements of federal lawsuits filed against oil companies that overcharged customers when price controls were in effect between 1973 and 1981. Under court guidelines, much of Utah's $18 million share of that pot must be spent to fund energy saving projects that result in restitution to the public.

To be eligible, a project must be directed toward increased energy efficiency or alternative energy development. Projects will be ranked according to the degree of public restitution or public benefit they provide and will require matching funds from the recipient.

"Public benefit" means energy efficiencies that will save money or result in savings to the public through non-profit organizations or utility ratepayers.

Bangerter said the public has been "lulled to sleep" by the relatively cheap price of oil. He said the country is no longer emphasizing alternative sources of energy and he warned that such complacency could be disastrous when oil-producing nations once again tighten their grip on U.S. consumers.

Bangerter has designated the Utah Energy Conservation and Development Council to select eligible projects and determine levels of funding.

The energy office will receive applications beginning May 16 through Aug. 15, 1988. A proposers' conference is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. June 7 in the Utah Department of Natural Resources Auditorium, 1636 W. North Temple. Copies of the requests for proposals are available from the energy office.