Taxpayers Earn $5 Billion From DOE Renewable Energy Loan Program

Remember Solyndra, the solar company that Republicans used as an endless attack on government investments in renewable energy?

At the time, an independent analysis found the program would perform well, with losses much less than expected, and now the final tally is in – the US will earn $5 billion to $6 billion in interest from the loan guarantee program, according to the Department of Energy.

That’s after countless hearings and even legislation to block the program in the "No More Solyndras Act."

"Taxpayers are not only benefitting from some of the world’s most innovative energy projects… but these projects are making good on their loan repayments," Peter Davidson, executive director of DOE’s Loan Programs Office, told Reuters. "Every month money continues to roll in" from interest payments.

The loan guarantee program was designed to help innovative companies get their products to market during the recession when private finance wasn’t available. It also created or saved 56,000 jobs and supported projects that now power a million homes.

Tesla stands out as its biggest success, paying back its $465 million loan nine years early. Abengoa, which received a $132.4 million guarantee, opened a biofuels plant in Kansas last month. The program has supported dozens of companies, with a handful of failures: Solyndra, Abound Solar, Fisker Automotive,  Beacon and Ener1.

Most loans supported the advent of utility-scale solar projects in the US at a time when investors weren’t willing to take the risk. All five are operating and since then 17 more have been funded privately. They also supported big wind farms and geothermal projects.

The Bush Administration created the loan program in 2005 and the Obama Administration extended it to renewable energy as part of the 2009 economic stimulus – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

DOE is lending again to renewable energy, fossil fuel and nuclear projects. The loans for nuclear are by far the highest, with $6.5 billion in guarantees approved for two reactors in Georgia this year. Cape Wind – the offshore wind project in Massachusetts – received a conditional loan guarantee of $150 million.

Read DOE’s report, Investing in American Energy:

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