United States announces return of clean energy loans
WASHINGTON – As part of its clean energy program, the Biden administration is relaunching a Department of Energy program that has provided billions of dollars in loan guarantees to companies such as electric car maker Tesla and the bankrupt solar company Solyndra, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said.
The loan program helped launch the country’s first large-scale wind and solar farms as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to create “green jobs,” but has largely remained dormant under President Donald Trump .
The program has helped Tesla in its efforts to become an electric car giant, but it stumbled with a large loan guarantee to Solyndra, the California solar company that went bankrupt shortly after receiving federal money there. is ten years old, costing taxpayers more than $ 500 million.
Republicans and other critics cite Solyndra as an example of unnecessary spending on President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, and loan guarantees have largely dried up in recent years. The Department of Energy provided $ 12 billion in guarantees for the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia, but few other loans were offered under Trump.
It’s about to change, says Granholm.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Granholm said that up to $ 40 billion in collateral will be made available for a variety of clean energy projects, including wind, solar and water power, vehicles of peak, geothermal and even nuclear.
“It must be clean. That’s all,” she said. “And when I say clean, you know, these are technologies that are being researched in the lab,” like projects to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions, green hydrogen fuel and other sources. energy, she said.
The program will be overseen by Jigar Shah, a longtime clean energy entrepreneur who helped launch solar power in the United States.
While Republicans should focus on avoiding a repeat of Solyndra, Granholm, a former Michigan governor, said Tesla was a better example. Company founder Elon Musk repaid the loan several years earlier than expected and Tesla is now one of the world’s leading manufacturers of electric cars and battery storage.
“I mean, obviously that was two administrations ago,” she said, referring to Solyndra, which went bankrupt in 2011. “We’ve learned a lot since then. People understand that when you invest in a new technology, you are going to have some that are not successful. “
Yet the loan program as a whole has brought in more than $ 500 million to taxpayers, “with people paying off their loans with interest,” Granholm said.
Granholm called herself a “big fan” of Shah, who co-hosts an energy podcast and advises investors on low-carbon projects. “I am very excited about his leadership and about using the DOE loan program again,” she said.
On other matters, Granholm said she believes electric utilities can meet President Joe Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035. The head of a lobbying group for utilities said last month that the 2035 date would be “an incredibly difficult situation to handle” for most. US electricity providers.
Reaching 80% or 90% clean electricity is “doable,” she said. “And the last piece is going to be more difficult, but we have to do it.” The good news is that companies have time to transition and improve the technology needed to produce clean energy on a larger scale, she said.
Granholm also promised that the energy department would be part of Biden’s commitment to environmental justice. Shalanda Baker, deputy director of energy justice and equity advisor at Granholm, will lead the effort, targeting underprivileged communities who have lost their jobs in coal mines or power plants or are located near refineries, incinerators or other hazards.
Biden has pledged that 40% of the profits from clean energy investments will go to underprivileged communities, “so that they are not forgotten, not invisible,” Granholm said.
Granholm, who took office on February 25 after being confirmed by the Senate, said her first week on the job “has been an incredible learning experience, under fire.”
Like previous Energy Secretaries, Granholm said she was impressed with the scale and reach of the agency, as well as the complex research and large number of scientists with doctorates in the 17 national laboratories of the department. The Department of Energy oversees the country’s nuclear stock, among other responsibilities.
Granholm said she plans to visit “each” of the 17 laboratories, which stretch from New York to California and will conduct cutting-edge research on a range of scientific and nuclear issues.
Laboratories are also studying technologies that can protect against future pandemics.
FILE – In this file photo from February 25, 2021, Jennifer Granholm is sworn in as Energy Secretary by Vice President Kamala Harris, as her husband Dan Mulhern holds the Bible, in the executive office building of ‘Eisenhower in the White House complex in Washington. Granholm’s daughter Cecelia Mulhern and son-in-law Damian Roberto Mendieta watch. The Biden administration is reviving a Department of Energy program that has distributed billions of dollars in loan guarantees to companies such as electric car maker Tesla and bankrupt solar company Solyndra. In an interview with The Associated Press, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said up to $ 40 billion in collateral will be made available for a variety of clean energy projects. (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik, file)