Sen. Murkowski: Oversight an Important First Step in Future of DOE Loan Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today discussed the Department of Energy’s (DOE) current loan programs and steps that could help improve them at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the issue.

(click for video of opening statement)

“DOE’s loan programs can serve a valuable purpose, but right now we need to know if the loans and loan guarantees issued so far have been as effective as we hoped,” Murkowski said. “It is vital for our committee to conduct regular and intensive oversight of the programs and agencies under our jurisdiction, especially when serious or unexpected problems begin to surface.”

While Murkowski expressed support for the loan programs – and considering additional authorities for them – she strongly believes that reforms are first needed to ensure that they’re operating as Congress intended.

The purpose of the hearing was to consider the current state of investment in and financing for clean energy technologies, the status of DOE’s loan programs, and opportunities for greater private sector investments in clean energy.

Senator Murkowski focused on three specific programs:

  • Section 1703: Created in 2005 to offer loan guarantees to projects using “new or significantly improved” technologies, with an emphasis on self-paid credit subsidy.
  • Section 1705: Created in 2009 to offer loan guarantees to renewable and transmission projects only, with $6 billion appropriated to pay for credit subsidy. 
  • ATVM: Created in 2007 to provide direct loans to automakers with $7.5 billion appropriated to pay for credit subsidy.

“I believe hearings like this are an important first step,” Murkowski said. “Once we have built a record and determined the root causes of the problems we have encountered, I want to fix the programs we already have.”