Changes to DOE Loan Guarantee Program Pass US House

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the first part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic stimulus package. Though the bulk of the renewable energy provisions of the package are contained in H.R. 598 (which is expected to be voted on next week), H.R. 1 does include a revamping of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program for renewable energy projects.

The bill more than doubles funding for DOE to administer the program, to US $25 million. It temporarily expands the program beyond “projects that employ innovative technologies” to include commercial technology projects for renewable energy systems and electric power transmission systems, if the project will commence construction no later than September 30, 2011. It also appropriates $8 billion to cover the loan guarantee “credit subsidy costs” of such commercial projects.

Chris O’Brien, head of market development and government relations for North America for Oerlikon Solar said that the bill is a good first step to changing the DOE program but more steps could be taken.

“Oerlikon Solar is pleased and encouraged by the House passage of the Economic Recovery and Investment Act yesterday. The House-approved language includes several key provisions to accelerate investment in renewable energy projects, particularly a provision to provide liquidity to tax equity markets.  One concern is that this provision is limited to two years, and would have limited impact in accelerating large scale solar projects. We would like to see the final bill modified to extend the timeline for eligibility.  Another concern is that the House-approved language does not include a provision for renewable energy technology manufacturing incentives,” O’Brien said.

“As a leading global supplier of thin film manufacturing lines, Oerlikon Solar would like to see a provision for a manufacturing tax credit included in the final legislation. We are encouraged by the inclusion of a manufacturing tax credit in the language approved by the Senate Finance Committee, and we commend Senator Bingaman’s leadership on this issue. SEIA estimates that a 30% manufacturing tax credit would create 315,000 jobs in the U.S., and our own analysis confirms that this provision would have a significant impact in steering global manufacturing investment to the U.S. and establishing a firm beachhead for U.S. solar manufacturing,” he continued.

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