DOE to OK renewable energy projects in spring: Chu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Energy Department will start approving loan guarantees later this spring for renewable energy projects after streamlining the application process, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Wednesday

President Barack Obama (R) and Vice President Joseph Biden (C) are given a tour by Namaste Solar CEO Blake Jones (L) of a solar panel instillation with the Denver skyline in the background at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, February 17, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Under the department’s loan guarantee program, the department pledges to repay a loan made by a financial institution for a renewable energy project if the project’s operator defaults on the loan.

The massive economic stimulus package signed into law this week by President Barack Obama provides $6 billion in loan guarantees for clean energy and electricity transmission projects.

That is on top of billions of dollars more in loan guarantees authorized under a program established by Congress several years ago for all types of energy sources.

“We’re looking at the loans in progress, we think we can accelerate them greatly and get them out the door very soon,” Chu said after a speech at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’s winter conference.

Chu said he wanted to start approving the loan guarantees by the end of April or the beginning of May, though he could not names any specific projects expected to get the green light.

“We’re looking at streamlining all the processes and getting rid of unnecessary paper,” he added.

Chu said that before he headed the department, applications for loan guarantees ran from 500 to 1,000 pages. Now, he has reduced the applications to 50 pages.

“You don’t need a thousand pages to show that this is a suitable loan,” he said.

Later, on a conference call promoting an upcoming energy conference, Chu said the department would begin evaluating applications as they arrived instead of waiting until all the applications had been filed.

The department has also brought in an expert from the private sector to oversee the speedy implementation of the loan guarantee program.

Reporting by Tom Doggett and Ayesha Rascoe; editing by Jim Marshall