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Feds Have Tools to Fight China for $48 trillion Energy Opportunity

Will the federal government use a controversial loan program to bolster U.S. energy and solar tech?

China is out to dominate the exploding energy sector, and the U.S. government must continue to nurture our electric sector and clean energy to remain competitive, according to a former U.S. Department of Energy official.

Dan Reicher, former DOE assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, recently told a congressional committee that at stake is a $48 trillion global energy industry in the next two decades. What remains to be determined is what share of that energy development will be renewable, and which country or countries will dominate a rapidly expanding energy sector, Reicher told the Energy Times.

A $40 billion federal loan fund should be tapped to keep America in the fight, he said.

But the future of such funds are threatened as a result of long-standing Republican and conservative opposition to such efforts, symbolized by the 2011 bankruptcy of Solyndra, a manufacturer of thin film solar cells, after receiving a $535 million DOE loan guarantee.

Reicher told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, “The Chinese government and industry have a well-organized partnership to dominate the solar industry, and several other energy technologies as well.”

“And it is this situation that makes the attacks on federal energy technology commercialization, like the DOE loan guarantee program, so misguided and troubling,” he said.

Reicher is executive director of the Stanford University Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy & Finance and professor at Stanford Law School. He also formerly was head of energy for Google.

Reicher is urging Congress and the Trump administration to use DOE’s loan program office, or LPO, to help the nation’s renewable and other energy technologies to remain competitive.

“The loan guarantee program is at a pivotal point with the arrival of a new administration and questions in some quarters about the need for LPO investment,” Reicher testified. “In sum, I believe the LPO is carrying out its congressionally-directed mission very capably, both helping to commercialize important energy and transportation technologies and managing the related investment portfolio successfully. With more than $40 billion in remaining authority, the LPO is well positioned to advance important bipartisan U.S. priorities, particularly supporting a broad range of critically important energy and transportation-related infrastructure investments.”

"In the next twenty years, the International Energy Agency projects that the world will spend roughly 48 trillion dollars on energy infrastructure, one of the biggest economic opportunities of the 21st century," Reicher testified. "China is getting organized to grab the biggest piece of this economic pie. We ignore China’s resolve – and impressive success to date – at our peril. And it is this situation that makes the attacks on federal energy technology commercialization, like the DOE loan guarantee program, so misguided and troubling."

EDITOR’s NOTE: Dan Reicher will be a concluding speaker at the Renewables Rush energy conference in San Francisco on April 5.



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