U.S. Energy Dept to offer loan aid to renewable energy companies

WASHINGTON, March 28 Fri Mar 28, 2014 6:07pm EDT

WASHINGTON, March 28 (Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Department will soon issue a plan to offer loan aid for renewable energy projects, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said on Friday, doubling down on investments that have drawn intense criticism over past government-backed business flops.

A department loan program funded by the 2009 economic stimulus law that backed solar, wind and geothermal projects was widely attacked by Republicans after the high-profile failure of solar panel manufacturer Solyndra.

Despite the bankruptcy of Solyndra and other recipients of department funds, the Obama administration has stressed that most of its energy investments have been successful, refusing to bow to calls to scrap its remaining loan programs.

"We will have another call in the loan program for renewables and efficiency in the not-too-distant future," Moniz said at a policy forum for the American Council on Renewable Energy.

He did not specify how much loan aid would be offered or specify the type of projects the department would seek to fund.

The department issued a plan last year to offer up to $8 billion in loan assistance for fossil fuel projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

No loan guarantees have been issued under that proposal yet.

Moniz pointed to the success of utility-scale solar power plants backed by the department through the stimulus package as an example of what the administration hopes to continue to accomplish.

Solar power plants are now being built in the United States by private companies without federal loan aid.

"We want to fund some of the first movers that push the technology out there and then have the private sector expand it," Moniz said.

Critics of the loan program have accused the administration of favoring political allies. They argue that the government should not be picking winners and losers in the energy market.

A 2005 law established a multi-billion dollar Energy Department loan program to help finance ground-breaking energy technologies. The proposed fossil fuel project loans would be funded under this long-stalled measure and the renewable energy projects likely would be, as well.

Loan aid through the program has been hampered by an arduous application process and stringent conditions for approval. The department has pledged with its latest loan proposals to end the logjam. (Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Comments (2)
Cl1ffClav3n wrote:
Here’s the government’s record of picking winners.

Administration-backed enterprises that have gone bankrupt with US taxpayer money include:
Brightsource ($1.6 billion)
First Solar ($1.46 billion)
SunPower ($1.2 billion)
Solyndra ($535 million)
Fisker Automotive ($529 million)
Abound Solar ($400 million)
A123 Systems ($279 million)
Babcock and Brown ($178 million)
Range Fuels ($156 million)
Compact Power ($151 million)
ECOtality ($126.2 million)
Ener1 ($118.5 million)
Mascoma Corp. ($100 million)
Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million)
Amonix ($96.5 million)
Vestas ($50 million)
Beacon Power ($43 million)
Navistar ($39 million)
Raser Technologies ($33 million)
Evergreen Solar ($25 million)
Konarka Technologies Inc. ($20 million)
Nordic Windpower ($16 million)
Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million)
UniSolar ($13.3 million)
Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million)
Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million)
Thompson River Power ($6.5 million)
Azure Dynamics ($5.4 million)
Satcon ($3 million)
Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million)
Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($700,981)
SpectraWatt ($500,000)
GreenVolts ($500,000)

And even ones that haven’t gone under are terrible investments. For example, the giant $2.2 billion Ivanpah thermal solar facility that just came online this year has no storage, uses essentially the same technology as the decommissioned Solar One in Mojave built the 1980s, and was built at a cost of $19/watt — more than twice as much as a nuclear plant and 10 times as much as a natural gas plant. And taxpayers covered $1.6 billion of that money pit as a DOE loan guarantee.

Mar 29, 2014 6:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
JMSilver wrote:
This is surprisingly lazy reporting for the normally impressive Reuters. Instead of actually covering what Moniz said (which expanded on the need for renewables and why this effort and approach made sense), the article uses it merely to rehash the old, tired political battle, without even nothing to note that none of those attacks turned out to be accurate). Loan aid was only hampered by an unwieldy process before that process was fixed…in 2010!. C’mon, if you have nothing to report, report nothing.

Mar 31, 2014 10:16am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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