DOE Makes $30B Available to Jumpstart 'Smart Grid' Projects

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"The Department has streamlined its processes to accelerate these new loan solicitations."

The Energy Department is making up to $30 billion in loan guarantee authority available for renewable energy and electric grid modernization projects.

DOE announced yesterday it was ready to accept applications for about $8.5 billion in loan guarantee authority for advanced renewable energy projects made available in the department's 2009 spending bill and $3.25 billion provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to cover the subsidy costs that will unleash the billions of dollars in loan guarantee authority for renewable energy, transmission projects and biofuels.

Of the $3.25 billion in subsidy costs from the stimulus act, $500 million is specifically for biofuel projects, and $750 million is for large transmission projects that begin construction before Sept. 30, 2011.

Applicants have 45 days to apply for the new guarantee authority, DOE said.

The government-backed authority should help boost lending capital for renewable and other clean-energy technology projects, which has dried up with the financial recession.

"This administration has set a goal of doubling renewable electricity generation over the next three years," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement. "To achieve that goal, we need to accelerate renewable project development by ensuring access to capital for advanced technology projects. We also need a grid that can move clean energy from the places it can be produced to the places where it can be used and that can integrate variable sources of power, like wind and solar," he said.

The loan guarantee authority should decrease the cost of the investments, making a "smart grid" investment a lower investment risk and thus less costly for consumers.

This is the sixth and seventh solicitations for loan guarantees since the 2005 energy bill provided the authority, DOE said. But much to the dismay of Congress, the department has given about 1% of the available authority to three conditional loan guarantees. DOE offered the almost $600 million to a solar panel manufacturer, a wind turbine manufacturer and an energy storage plant.

"The Department has streamlined its processes to accelerate these new loan solicitations," DOE said.

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