Jul 22, 2021 - Energy & Environment

What's next for the Energy Department's loan programs office

Illustration of the head of the Energy Department talking at a podium.
Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Torsten Blackwood/AFP via Getty Images

Clean technology companies have certainly taken notice of the Energy Department's moves to revive its loan programs office.

Driving the news: "Today we’re already averaging about $7 billion of applications a month and more are coming every day," Jigar Shah, who heads the office, tells IHS Markit in a newly posted interview.

  • "We've got about 40 applications that we know about that are being actively being put together," he said.
  • They include advanced nuclear, renewables, efficiency, carbon storage, EV and battery manufacturing, critical minerals and more, Shah said in the "CERAWeek Conversations" series.

Why it matters: The office is a tool for DOE, using existing powers, to bolster deployment of climate-friendly technologies, but it was largely fallow in the Trump years.

The program, which financed Tesla in 2010, other successful projects but also some duds (famously Solyndra), currently has nearly $44 billion worth of financing authority.

What they're saying: Here's more from the wide-ranging interview...

  • Shah discussed the office's role in a wider effort to address the "wholly unacceptable" pace at which climate solutions are being deployed in the U.S.
  • He said deployment is around $200 billion annually and should get to $1 trillion to achieve U.S. climate goals.
  • One of the barriers, he notes, is a knowledge deficit in project finance and development. "Today we perennially have too much money and not enough projects," Shah said.
  • Shah also touched on specific technologies, at one point noting, "We’re going to be doing several billion dollars’ worth of geothermal loan guarantees."
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