April 18, 2014

White House to use executive orders to aid the solar industry

The White House announced on Thursday it was launching a $15 million dollar “Solar Market Pathways” program to help state, local and tribal governments expand their solar energy production.

“To advance our nation’s energy and climate goals, the United States must be a leader in innovating and deploying clean energy,” the White House said. “Solar is a vital component of the Administration’s all-of the above strategy. Supported by historic investments in research, development, and deployment, the price of solar technologies has decreased and the U.S. solar market has experienced rapid growth since President Obama took office.”

“But the President is committed to continuing the momentum,” the White House added. “The White House is also calling, today for new commitments from the private sector and non-profits to support solar deployment and jobs.”

But it doesn’t end there, the White House also proposes powering more federal housing projects and state and local government buildings and schools with solar energy. The EPA’s announced it will double on-site renewable energy generation through its “Green Power Partnership” by the end of the decade.

President Obama’s new solar push, of course, comes with more financing for solar energy facilities and panels. This includes $2.5 billion from the Energy Department for more loan guarantees for solar projects — the same loan guarantees that were given to failed companies like Solyndra and Abound Solar.

This announcement comes as the Energy Department announces i’’s looking to issue $4 billion in green energy loan guarantees and that the Defense Department is planning to expand its use of green energy sources.

Previous efforts by the Obama administration to promote green energy use have been criticized by Republicans after several high-profile failures tainted such efforts. Companies like Solyndra and Abound got hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees only to fail after years of mismanagement.

Abound filed for bankruptcy in June 2012 after drawing down on $70 million of its $400 million Energy Department loan guarantee. The Daily Caller News Foundation reported in 2012 that the company knowingly took taxpayer dollars while making faulty solar panels that routinely caught fire.

“Our solar modules worked as long as you didn’t put them in the sun,” an internal source in the company told TheDCNF.

The Energy Department’s inspector general released a report on Thursday that government officials ignored expert advice about the company’s potential problems.

“We found that [DOE's] internal solar expert had previously expressed concerns to the program regarding deficiencies in Abound’s quality control,” the IG wrote.

Solyndra’s failure sparked Republican criticisms that the Obama administration was playing venture capitalist and losing. The company failed in September 2011 after getting $535 million from the Obama administration.

The Obama administration says that the costs of solar have come down dramatically in the past few years, meaning the technology is much more viable today than it was in the past. Solar energy made up 30 percent of the newly installed electric generation capacity for 2013.

“Without question, the Obama administration has been the most solar-friendly ever,” Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, told The Washington Post.

But solar energy is still expensive and heavily subsidized. Despite being heavily subsidized, solar power made up only about 0.11 percent of U.S. electrical generation in 2012, according to the Energy Information Administration.


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