photo: San Luis Obispo County
In The New York Times on Thursday, I wrote about a United States Department of Energy official affiming that loan guarantees for nuclear power projects would continue in the wake of the Japanese reactor disaster. He also said loans for a “significant” number of large renewable energy projects would be issued in the coming months:
With many riveted on Japan’s reactor crisis, the head of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program has affirmed that it will continue to finance nuclear projects in the United States.
“Assuming there is a desire in the Capitol to move forward, nuclear remains an important part of the energy mix,” Jonathan Silver, executive director of the Energy Department’s loan programs office, said on Wednesday in a presentation at the Cleantech Forum conference in San Francisco.
“I point out here that the technology at use in the project we financed is quite different from the ones that have been affected by Japan,” he added. “Nonetheless, we obviously take this quite seriously.”
Mr. Silver’s remarks followed Congressional testimony in Washington by Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Gregory B. Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Dr. Chu said that the Obama administration continued to support nuclear energy, noting the president had requested that $36 billion be appropriated for the nuclear loan guarantee program.
During his presentation, Mr. Silver, however, focused on renewable energy.
“In 2010, the loan program was the largest financier of renewable energy program in the world with the exception of China,” said Mr. Silver, a former venture capitalist. “We invested more money into clean energy than the 10 largest project finance groups in the world, public or private sector combined, except China.”
As financing for multibillion-dollar renewable energy projects dried up in the recession and bankers became leery of taking risks on new technologies, solar and wind developers have come to depend on the loan guarantee program.
“The sun shines and the wind blows in red and blue states,” Mr. Silver said. “We are agnostic on the topic of geography and we are agnostic on the topic of technology other than is it innovative and potentially transformative at scale.”
The loan guarantee program has come under fire from all sides, with some green energy advocates complaining that the Energy Department has been slow to hand out cash for projects. Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, have questioned whether the department has spent its money wisely and have moved to cut funding for the $71 billion program.
An audit released last week by the Energy Department’s inspector general found that poor record-keeping made it difficult to evaluate some loan decisions.
Mr. Silver did not address the audit on Wednesday but noted that although the loan guarantee program began under the Bush administration in 2005, it was not funded until 2008 and had only 35 employees when he became executive director in early 2009.
You can read the rest of the story here.