Policy: Environment & Energy

Energy Department chief hails green loans a 'terrific success'

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,Energy and Environment

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz dismissed the "controversy" surrounding the loan program that gave taxpayer funding to a now-bankrupt solar energy company, calling the program "a terrific success" despite the high-profile bankruptcies.

"The loan guarantee program has had some controversy. Let me say flatly: It's been a terrific success, and a $35 billion loan portfolio has had two percent of defaults, 10 percent of the reserve fund that the Congress itself put aside for what is advancement of risky technologies," Moniz told reporters on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers."

"Utility-scale solar energy, for example, has been an enormous beneficiary of that, where the department's initial loan guarantees got the first projects going. Since then, 10 large projects have gone forward with completely private financing," he said.

Solyndra was the flagship of the DOE loan program. “Solyndra expects to hire a thousand workers to manufacture solar panels and sell them across America and around the world,” President Obama said during a 2010 visit to the company.

“And this in turn will generate business for companies throughout our country who will create jobs supplying this factory with parts and materials. So there’s a ripple effect. It’s not just localized to this area.”

But Solyndra declared bankruptcy in August 2011. Energy Department officials agreed to allow one of the largest investors into the company -- Argonaut Private Equity, owned by major Obama donor George Kaiser -- to be repaid before taxpayers, despite a numerous government findings that such a subordination of the taxpayer loan to private loans violated the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

House investigators into the bankruptcy passed a "No More Solyndras Act" designed to prevent similar bankruptcies by banning such loan guarantees.

“In light of the recent string of bankruptcies, Solyndra, Beacon Power, and Abound Solar just last week, our bill takes a stand for American taxpayers, declaring loud and clear that there will be ‘No More Solyndras,’” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said in July 2012.

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