Feds bring back loan guarantees for renewable energy

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Energy Department,ARRA,PennAve,Energy and Environment,Zack Colman,Ernest Moniz

The federal loan guarantee program for renewable energy projects is officially back in business.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced Thursday that the Energy Department is taking applications for up to $4 billion of federal loan guarantees for renewable and energy-efficiency projects. It's a restart of the federal program that garnered heavy Republican criticism for backing a handful of failed ventures, most notably the $535 million loan guarantee awarded to now-bankrupt solar panel-maker Solyndra.

Moniz, however, has doubled down on the loan guarantee portfolio -- Thursday's development builds on an earlier retooling of an alternative vehicle loan program that has $8 billion of debt authority remaining. Moniz has noted that losses have stayed far under the $10 billion Congress set aside for the loan portfolio, and has credited it with invigorating the clean technology industry.

"Through previous loan guarantees and other investments, the department is already helping launch or jumpstart entire industries in the U.S., from utility-scale wind and solar to nuclear and lower-carbon fossil energy. Today's announcement will help build on and accelerate that success," he said.

House Republicans have already taken aim at the loan guarantee program through the budget process. The budget proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which the House passed in April, zeroed out funding for the effort.

At the heart of GOP criticism is that the loan program rewarded allies of President Obama. A 2012 House GOP probe of the Solyndra loan guarantee, however, found no such wrongdoing.

But it's still a hot topic of what Republicans see as the Obama administration's preference for green energy technology over fossil fuels. They say the program amounts to picking winners and losers in the energy industry.

"If you look at what we've done thus far with all the money that came out of the stimulus bill that we spent on so-called alternative energy and green energy, it was a complete disaster. We have nothing to show for all of that," Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said in a recent interview. "When you look at the number of companies, I lost track of how many companies have now gone bankrupt, taking the taxpayers' money with them."

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