U.S. DOE Revives $4B Loan Program for Clean Tech

In a move positioned as the continuation of the Department of Energy’s commitment to the removal of financial hurdles blocking the deployment of clean energy technologies, the DOE is offering nearly $4 billion in loan guarantees to foster the commercialization of U.S.-based renewable energy and energy efficiency projects unable to obtain full commercial financing.

The draft plan would provide loan guarantees for projects designed to limit or avoid greenhouse gas emissions, and will specifically focus on advanced electric grid technology and storage, biofuels for conventional vehicles, energy from waste products and energy efficiency.

(Meanwhile, a recent report found that corn-based biofuels, or “cellulosic biofuels”, released 7% more greenhouse gases than conventional gasoline, challenging the Obama administration’s conclusions that they can help fight climate change. The research was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.)

Dubbed the Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee solicitation, the plan includes a period for public comments that ends May 16; the final solicitation will be issued in June. (A draft of the solicitation can be found here)

“We’re back in business,” Peter Davidson, executive director of the department’s loan programs office, told Reuters. “We really want to go back to … doing very valuable work for our economy going forward.”

The program had entered a “quiet period” after funding related to the 2009 economic stimulus—which backed solar, wind and geothermal projects, including now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Solyndra—expired, Davidson told Reuters.

Once this most recent program is finalized, the DOE’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) will accept applications in a total of three areas; the other two are the $8 billion Advanced Fossil Energy Projects Solicitation, released in December 2013, and the $16 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program.

“Through our existing renewable energy loan guarantees, the Department’s Loan Programs Office helped launch the U.S. utility-scale solar industry and other clean energy technologies that are now contributing to our clean energy portfolio,” DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a DOE statement. “We want to replicate that success by focusing on technologies that are on the edge of commercial-scale deployment today.”

Currently, the LPO supports a diverse portfolio of more than $30 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and commitments, supporting more than 30 projects nationwide, including one of the world’s largest wind farms.

The DOE’s website highlights two programs funded under the new 1703 program. One involves the Georgia Power Company (GPC), Oglethorpe Power Corporation (OPC), and the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG), which are together using an $8.33 billion loan to construct and operate two new nuclear reactors at a plant in Waynesboro, Georgia. The project will create an output of 18 million MWh a year, and about 10 million tons of CO2.

AREVA Enrichment Services, LLC, is using a $2 billion loan to support the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The project will supply uranium enrichment services.

To view the full Reuters article cited in this story, click here


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