by Daniel J. Graeber
Washington (UPI) Aug 28, 2015
Republican pressure after the bankruptcy of solar company Solyndra forced the Department of Energy to change its loan policies, an energy committee chairman said.
The federal government is supporting solar development through its SunShot initiative, which aims to make the renewable technology competitive. The program aims to move solar power capacity from less than 1 percent of the national electricity supply to 14 percent by 2030.
A shadow was cast over the federal solar program with the 2011 bankruptcy of Solyndra, which received more than $500 million in federal loan guarantees.
A report from the Department of Energy Inspector General found the company may have misled the government during its application for the loan. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said the White House was careless in its vetting of the Solyndra loan.
"The administration was careless with precious dollars, the program was rife with problems, and it was our effective oversight that forced the Department of Energy to do its due diligence on subsequent applications," he said in a statement.
U.S. President Barack Obama touted Solyndra as a centerpiece of his green economic agenda, though the initial loan program itself was vetted by the administration of George W. Bush.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy said in a statement issued in response to email questions it was the officials at Solyndra who undermined the department's efforts to manage the loan guarantee process.
The department said it revised its loan vetting processes in the wake of the Solyndra bankruptcy, including measures the Government Accountability Office found to be potentially more rigorous than the private sector.
"Losses to date represent approximately 2 percent of the overall loan portfolio, while the successes of the program have supported a host of new jobs and more than $50 billion in total investment," the spokesman said. "Further, project companies supported by the department's Loan Programs Office have already repaid approximately $6 billion, including more than $1.1 billion in interest payments, to the U.S. Treasury."
Upton's committee in 2012 pushed legislation that would phase out U.S. federal loans for solar energy programs, referencing a need to address fiscal challenges as the U.S. economy recovered from recession.
Upton at the time described the measure as a budget-saving initiative.
The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab published a survey this month of about 80 percent of all U.S. residential and non-residential photovoltaic systems installed through 2014 and found national median installed prices declined 9 percent year-on-year for residential systems, 10 percent for small-scale non-residential systems and 21 percent for larger non-residential systems.
In February, energy consultant group Wood Mackenzie found solar power has evolved from a niche renewable sector to something that's pressuring conventional business models in the utility industry.
All About Solar Energy at SolarDaily.com
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