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Moniz on energy loans: ‘What is there to be defensive about?’

Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest MonizFederal task force recommends safety upgrades for gas storage Energy secretary: ‘We got it right’ on Iran deal Overnight Energy: Trump visits Flint | GOP chairman defends subpoenas in climate probe MORE is touting federal green energy loans that have drawn strong criticism from Republicans over the collapse of the solar panel company Solyndra.

Moniz, speaking at a green energy summit in Nevada, said that the overall program, which supports low emissions energy projects and automakers, has been a major success.

“My view is, what is there to be defensive about?” Moniz said of the loan and loan guarantee programs.

“A $35 billion portfolio with 2 percent current and projected defaults with many, many, many success stories,” he said at the National Clean Energy Summit 6.0 in Las Vegas. “That is what it means to have a portfolio out there.”

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The programs were first authorized in George W. Bush-era legislation but didn’t start backing projects and companies until President Obama took office.

“It is establishing very, very large renewable projects, major vehicle projects. We are stimulating the first nuclear power construction in the United States [in decades], so it is really an ... all of the above, let’s get out there and get these technologies on the ground,” Moniz said.

Highlighting the 2011 collapse of Solyndra and a few other companies that sputtered or failed was a GOP election-season staple in 2012, leading Republicans to claim Obama’s green energy agenda was a failure.

The Energy Department loan guarantee program for renewable energy manufacturing and power projects, which supported panel-maker Solyndra, was altered and received funding through the 2009 stimulus law.

The renewables portion of the loan guarantee program has wound down, but Moniz in July solicited applications for up to $8 billion in loan guarantees for advanced fossil energy projects, such as trapping carbon from coal plants, that curb emissions.

Moniz also said renewable and alternative energy technologies are no longer just a goal for the future but rather an increasing part of the energy mix.

He criticized “the idea that these are always the technologies of 10 years from now.”

Moniz noted that wind, which still supplies a very small percentage of U.S. electricity, has been the largest source of new power generation capacity additions of late.

He also said that while the Obama administration isn’t on pace to meet its goal of 1 million electric vehicles, it may not be too far off.

If current growth rates are sustained, it may be a few months into 2016, Moniz said.

This post was updated at 5:15 p.m.