By Michael Gergen and Eli Hopson
On July 3, 2014, the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) Loan Programs Office issued a new “Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy” solicitation for loan guarantees. DOE issued the Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy solicitation under Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and its implementing regulations under 10 C.F.R. Part 609. The solicitation states that DOE will support as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees (direct authority to issue approximately $2.5 billion in guarantees and remaining appropriations of $169 million to cover credit subsidy costs – estimated to support some multiple amount of guarantees).
Eligible projects must utilize an “innovative” technology and must reduce, avoid, or sequester greenhouse gases. (DOE’s implementing regulations under Title XVII contrast an “innovative” technology from a “commercial” technology, which is a technology in “general use,” and which, in turn, is defined as having been installed in and is being used in three or more commercial projects in the US in the same general application, and has been operating in each such commercial project for at least give years.) DOE is seeking to provide financing support for technology areas that are “catalytic,” replicable and market ready. Five technology areas identified in the Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy solicitation (not intended to be exclusive or limiting) are:
(1) advanced grid integration & storage (e.g., storage projects that clearly enable greater adoption of renewable generation);
(2) drop-in biofuels (e.g., new bio-refineries);
(3) waste-to-energy (e.g., municipal solid waste to electricity);
(4) enhancement of existing facilities (e.g., retrofitting existing wind turbines); and
(5) efficiency improvements (e.g., energy efficiency measures, dispatch, control, or stabilize intermittent power to the grid).
DOE loan guarantees can support debt from a commercial lender or the US Treasury. Long-term financing is available (up to 30 years). DOE can only guarantee up to 80% of project costs (and most projects are expected to have at least 35% equity). DOE is strongly encouraging but not requiring co-lending with commercial lenders and will look favorably on projects seeking only a partial guarantee. (DOE has provided partial guarantees for prior projects, such as the Caithness Shepherds Flat onshore wind project, and it recently announced a conditional commitment for a partial guarantee of $150 million to support the construction of 350 MW of Cape Wind Associates, LLC’s planned 468 MW Cape Wind offshore wind project. DOE reports that it would be part of a group of public and private lenders for the Cape Wind project, which is generally reported to be seeking debt financing of approximately $1.5 billion.)
As was the case for prior solicitations, the application process will entail two sequential submissions– Part I submission (and payment of a $50,000 application fee), and if chosen to proceed further, a Part II submission (and payment of a $350,000 fee (or a $100,000 fee for loan guarantee amount less than $150 million). Davis Bacon and National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) requirements will also apply.
The initial due dates for Part I and Part II submissions in Round 1 of the Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Solicitation are October 1, 2014, and January 14, 2015, respectively. Part II submissions will be systematically reviewed on a continuous basis as soon as they are received, though final selection of qualified Applicants will not occur until after all Part II submissions are competitively evaluated against all others submitted during the corresponding round of review. Accordingly, while there are four later Rounds planned after the initial round (e.g., Round 2 has due dates for Part I and Part II submissions of December 3, 2014, and March 11, 2015, respectively), given the limited amount of appropriated credit subsidy costs, the earliest Rounds may be more heavily subscribed (and the later Rounds could be cancelled).
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