GAO told House and Senate lawmakers on the powerful appropriations committee that the DOE’s loan office, which administers both programs, has about $51 billion in unused funds in its account and has $170 million in credit subsidy appropriations going unused. Further, the department hasn’t “closed on a loan or loan guarantee or conditionally committed to do so under either program since September 2011,” according to the study.
The accountability office interviewed applicants for the loan programs to further evaluate DOE’s performance and found that “most applicants and manufacturers we spoke with told us that, currently, the costs of participating outweigh the benefits. “
Those costs include intangible ones, such as a “lengthy and burdensome” application and review process and the amount of documents needed to apply. Some even mentioned the failure of energy company Solyndra making them skittish about partnering up with the Obama administration.
“They believed the negative publicity makes DOE more risk-averse or makes companies wary of being associated with government support,” according to a GAO PowerPoint about the report findings.
In the January and February performance audit conducted by the GAO, the agency reported that the DOE is in the midst of using $15.1 million of the $34.8 billion remaining funds for the renewable energy project loans, saying it had 13 “active” applicants in the process. The credit subsidy – which goes to cover the administrative costs to issue the loans – would be used to complete the process, DOE officials told the oversight body.
DOE also said that, as of Jan. 29, it was not “actively” considering any applications for the as not actively considering any applications for ATVM, of fuel-efficiency technology, loans – which leaves $16.6 billion in loan appropriations on the table.
The department noted that it had received seven applications for the program – which would requested a total of $1.48 billion in loans – but they chose not to proceed because of the companies having “insufficient equity or technology that is not ready,” GAO told lawmakers. DOE officials say that even though the department will still continue to receive applications, it does not plan to use the rest of its appropriated funds, which do not have an expiration date.