Loan guarantee application deadline extended

By Bryan Sims
Posted August 16, 2010, at 2:10 p.m. CST

The U.S. DOE is giving renewable energy projects six more weeks to apply for loan guarantees by extending its application deadline for the July 2009 energy efficiency, renewable energy and advanced transmission and distribution technologies solicitation, to Oct. 5.

The newly-created Round 8, Part I of the application stage is intended to give companies additional time to develop and submit Part I applications to apply for a loan guarantee under Section 1705, provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Part II application deadline remains Dec. 31. The Aug. 24 application deadline for Round 7 remains the same.

"The Department is committed to bringing as many commercial renewable projects online as possible to help us meet our clean energy goals and generate more jobs," said energy secretary Steven Chu. "By extending the time applicants can file, we will be able to support additional projects that diversify the country's clean energy mix and strengthen our economy."

Despite the decision by the DOE to extend the deadline for renewable energy applications, contention has been voiced within renewable energy circles over concerns regarding Congress' decision to shave $1.5 billion off the $26.1 billion DOE funding pool for renewable energy projects to cover teacher salaries and Medicaid. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill (H.R. 1586), and the Senate passed an identical version on Aug. 5, after which the legislation was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

In August 2009, Congress dipped into the DOE's renewable energy loan guarantee program by taking out $2 billion to supplement the "Cash for Clunkers" program to help stimulate new auto sales. In all, the $3.5 billion amounts to more than half of the $6 billion appropriated by statute for renewable energy loan guarantees enacted in the recovery act. However, Congress has yet to repay the money despite repeated promises from lawmakers and the White House.

Before the bill's passing, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., reassured the renewable energy industry that Congress would eventually restore the $1.5 billion rescinded from the DOE Loan Guarantee Program. According to Reid, the funding was a small piece of $20 billion in DOE stimulus funds the department has been slow to dole out, which includes $13 billion for state energy programs and the $6 billion for the renewable energy loan guarantee program.

Renewable energy organizations from various sectors vehemently opposed the rescission as they wrote a letter on the eve of the vote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urging the House to drop the proposed cut. Leaders from the Solar Energy Industries Association, the American Wind Energy Association, Geothermal Energy Association, National Hydropower Association and the Biomass Power Association all signed the letter. The groups also included a two-year extension of a treasury grant program that's set to expire this year.

"This reduction in funding severely limits the DOE's ability to support the suite of renewable resources through the loan guarantee program," the letter stated. "The proposed cut makes it likely that manufacturers of commercial renewable technologies will not be able to take advantage of the DOE Loan Guarantee Program," the letter continued.

According to the SEIA, there are currently 81 renewable energy project applications totaling $31 billion in lending authority already in the DOE loan guarantee pipeline. Since $2.5 billion remains in the program, the DOE is expected to be able to fund project applications totaling $25 billion. Consequently, according to the SEIA, the program is already oversubscribed.