July 17, 2018, by Ari Natter
The U.S. Energy Department programs that helped finance the nation’s first new nuclear reactor in 30 years and issued a $465 million loan to Tesla Inc. are taking aim at a new target: developing resources on the nation’s vast tribal lands.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry is to announce on Tuesday that his department’s Loan Programs Office will begin accepting applications for up to $2 billion in partial loan guarantees for energy projects by American Indian and Alaskan Native communities.
“The department has heard from tribes that they can have difficulty accessing the debt capital necessary to finance energy development projects that will benefit Indian country,” Perry said in a statement. The Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program will collaborate with private lenders “to help them better understand the unique characteristics of tribal energy opportunities,” Perry said.
Energy projects ranging from conventional fuel extraction and pipeline projects to renewable energy generation and energy storage are eligible for the program, the department said in a solicitation for proposals, the first of which is due Sept. 19. Indian lands in the U.S. encompass more than 55 million acres.
The program, authorized under 2005 energy law but only recently funded by Congress, will provide partial loan guarantees to leverage private sector lending and help increase the availability of commercial debt financing for tribal energy markets, the Energy Department said.
The department’s loan program office has helped finance more than $30 billion in energy projects including some of the world’s largest solar generation facilities, but is perhaps best known for its half billion dollar loan guarantee to failed solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC.
The Trump administration has proposed eliminating the office, but Perry has voiced support for it on Capitol Hill, telling lawmakers that he is a “big believer” that government has a role to play in commercializing new technologies.