Loans of $2 Billion Weighed by U.S. for Clean Energy Projects

The U.S. Energy Department is reviewing nine applications from companies seeking $4.8 billion in energy-related loan guarantees, the first since the collapse of Solyndra unleashed an avalanche of Republican criticism.

A Government Accountability Office report today showed applications for eight energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects valued at $2 billion and a coal gasification plant that can capture carbon-dioxide emissions for $2.8 billion.

The department hasn’t issued a loan or loan guarantee since September 2011 when its authority under a stimulus-financed program expired. Loan guarantees were criticized by Republican lawmakers after Solyndra, a solar-panel maker in California, went bankrupt two years after winning a $535 million U.S. guarantee.

The loan-guarantee program, which operated from 2009-2011 delivered a total of $16 billion to 28 companies as part of the 2009 economic stimulus.

Separately, Congress appropriated $170 million in April 2011 to support a new round of guarantees to cutting-edge projects through guarantees.

Of the pending energy-efficiency and renewable-energy initiatives, two are biomass, one is solar generation, three are solar manufacturing and two are wind generation, according to the GAO, which doesn’t identify any of the projects.

The Energy Department declined to give GAO, Congress’s investigative arm, an estimate as to when the projects would gain U.S. backing. Some applicants told auditors that they expected to have the guarantees within the next six months.

The Energy Department has issued a conditional commitment for an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to Southern Co. for the construction of the Vogtle nuclear-power plant in Georgia.

Copyright 2013 Bloomberg

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