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The U.S. Department of Energy has announced a $4 billion loan guarantee program for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

The Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee program is intended to support the first commercial-scale deployments of the next wave of innovative clean energy technologies. Through the program, the Energy Department solicits applications for loan guarantees. When a successful applicant borrows money for project finance from a commercial bank, the federal government promises to assume the borrower's debt obligation if that borrower defaults. This guarantee serves as a credit backstop for the borrower, ultimately reducing its cost of financing because the lender knows it has resort to federal funds if the borrower cannot repay the loan.

The current program follows a series of previous Energy Department loan guarantee programs. These programs have helped finance projects including the NRG Solar, LLC's 290-megawatt Agua Caliente solar photovoltaic array (the world's largest), NRG Energy, Inc.'s 392-megwatt Brightsource concentrating solar power (CSP) plant (also the world's largest), the 845-megawatt Caithness Shepherds Flat wind project, and Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas LLC's cellulosic ethanol plant. While not all of the previous programs' awardees have been successful -- for example, failed solar panel maker Solyndra -- the Department touts the programs as aligned with President Obama's Climate Action Plan, by supporting investment in domestic energy resources and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

To be eligible for the present solicitation (48-page PDF), a project must be located in the United States and meet both of the following criteria:

1. Use renewable energy systems; efficient electrical generation, transmission, and distribution technologies; or efficient end-use energy technologies; and

2. Meet both of the following requirements : a) Avoid, reduce, or sequester anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases; and b) employ new or significantly improved technology as compared to commercial technology in service in the United States. Beyond these general criteria, the Energy Department's Loan Programs Office has identified five target areas for awards:

Advanced Grid Integration and Storage: mitigating issues related to variability, dispatchability, congestion, and control of renewable energy systems by incorporating technologies such as demand response or local storage, enabling enhanced integration of renewable energy into the grid.

Drop-In Biofuels: developing biofuels that are more compatible with today’s engines, delivery infrastructure and refueling station equipment, enabling nearly identical bio-based substitutes for crude oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel.

Waste-to-Energy: projects using waste materials which are otherwise discarded, such as landfill methane and segregated waste, as energy sources.

Enhancement of Existing Facilities: incorporating renewable generation technology into existing renewable energy and efficient energy facilities to significantly enhance performance or extend the lifetime of the generating asset. Efficiency Improvements: projects incorporating new or improved technologies to further improve on energy efficiency that would substantially reduce greenhouse gases.

Under the solicitation, the first round of application materials is due on October 1, 2016. For more information on the opportunity, contact the Energy Department, or consult a professional experienced with financing and developing energy projects.

DOE Announces Two Programs Supporting Renewable and Clean Energy

(04-18-14) -- Last week the United States Department of Energy (the DOE) announced two programs supporting the Obama administration’s commitment to renewable energy development.1 On April 16, the DOE released a draft solicitation for up to $4 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects and energy efficiency projects (the Loan Guarantee Solicitation). Just one day later, on April 17, the DOE announced the $15 million Solar Market Pathways program for community solar development.

Loan Guarantee Solicitation

Under the Loan Guarantee Solicitation, up to $4 billion in DOE loan guarantees will be available for innovative renewable or energy efficiency technologies that reduce or capture greenhouse gas emissions and would have difficulty obtaining traditional commercial financing. The loan guarantees will be administered under the Section 1703 loan guarantee program under Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which to date has only been used to fund nuclear projects. It is the first solicitation for loan guarantees for clean energy projects since a hiatus after the expiration of the Section 1705 loan guarantee program in September 2011, which offered $16 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy and bio-fuels projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The Loan Guarantee Solicitation is focused on innovative technologies that “will have a catalytic effect on the commercial deployment” of the technology in future projects. While the DOE will consider any eligible project, the Loan Guarantee Solicitation identified five key categories:

In order to be eligible for a DOE loan guarantee under the Loan Guarantee Solicitation, a project must meet all of the following requirements:

Applications will be evaluated in two phases before being selected to negotiate with the DOE. Phase I will determine whether a project meets the eligibility requirements set out above. Projects that pass Phase I will be invited to submit applications for Phase II. In Phase II, projects will be evaluated based on a variety of factors, including financial aspects (if the project could be financed without the DOE loan guarantee, the guaranteed loan will be senior secured debt, and if there will be co-lenders or partial guarantors), if the project would be the best use of the loan guarantee based on efficiency and competitiveness, the sponsor’s experience and the DOE’s due diligence on the project.

The DOE is holding informational public meetings about the Loan Guarantee Solicitation in Austin, TX, Denver, CO, Arlington, VA and Twin Cities, MN. The draft Loan Guarantee Solicitation is available here and is open to public comment for 30 days. The final solicitation is targeted to be issued in June.

Solar Market Pathways

The second program announced by the DOE last week, Solar Market Pathways, focuses on assisting communities develop plans to promote affordable solar installation for homes and businesses. It is being launched under the DOE’s SunShot Initiative of 2011 – a national effort to make unsubsidized solar cost-competitive with traditional energy sources.

Under the Solar Market Pathways initiative, the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is requesting case studies of community development plans for solar that have a primary goal of cost reduction and eliminating barriers to entry and are likely to be implemented and replicated by other communities. The development plans do not have to be implemented during the award period. Examples of development plans sought by the EERE are those focusing on developing public-private partnerships, streamlining regulatory processes and/or creating shared solar programs.

The Solar Market Pathways announcement is available here. Concept papers are due May 28, 2016, followed by full applications on July 3, 2016. The EERE anticipates that awards will be issued in August 2016.

1 On December 5, 2013, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum announcing a goal to obtain 20% of U.S. energy from renewables by 2020.

Electrify Africa Act

On February 27, 2016, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed H.R. 2548, the Electrify Africa Act, to improve access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, through a comprehensive U.S. government approach to electricity projects in the region. The bipartisan legislation would establish a U.S. strategy to support affordable, reliable electricity in sub-Saharan Africa in order to improve economic growth, health and education in Africa, while helping job creation in the United States through greater exports.

The main purpose of the Electrify Africa Act is to make government-backed credit more accessible to the private sector in order to deliver access to energy for more than 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. This important development could help interested investors access a $300 billion energy market in sub-Saharan Africa and tap into the demand for an additional 20,000 megawatts in the region.

Changing How the United States Does Business in Africa

If enacted, the Electrify Africa Act will declare that it is the policy of the United States to encourage access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. It will also require that the administration create a comprehensive strategy to help increase electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. More important, the Electrify Africa Act would change how certain U.S. agencies do business in Africa:

Opening a $300 Billion and 20,000 MW Energy Market

The Electrify Africa Act would assist investors in accessing sub-Saharan Africa’s untapped $300 billion energy market and demand for more than 20,000 additional megawatts of electricity. If enacted, the Electrify Africa Act will:

Holding the U.S. Government Accountable for Electrification Projects in Africa

Putting policy into practice, the U.S. government will closely monitor the expenditure of funds and associated projects under the Electrify Africa Act. After three years from enactment, the president would be required to report to the Committee on Foreign Relations with a list of power sector and electrification projects the USG is supporting. The report would include:

Bipartisan Support for Electrify Africa Act

When the House Committee on Foreign Affairs reported H.R. 2548 to the full House, it represented a rare moment of bipartisanship during the 113th Congress. Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) intends to solicit additional Member support in the coming weeks with anticipated consideration by the full House as early as April or May of this year. Even without action by the House Financial Services Committee, which shares jurisdiction over the bill, House leadership is expected to proceed with the bill's consideration. In June 30, 2013, the Obama administration announced the Power Africa Initiative which similarly dedicates federal resources to the development of sub-Saharan Africa's electrification. Although the Power Africa Initiative includes different targets and additional private-public partnerships, President Obama will likely support any bill similar to H.R. 2548 that comes out of Congress.

What Does the Electrify Africa Act Mean for Investors?

The main purpose of the Electrify Africa Act is to make government-backed credit more accessible to the private sector in order to deliver access to energy for more than 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. This means easier access to credit for those investors who are not only interested in exploring projects in the region, but who also understand African development and working with U.S. agencies. It also means a likely increase in the number of privatized power projects within sub-Saharan Africa as the U.S. government works with partner countries to reform and open energy markets.

END

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Dan F. Schramm, CEO
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