New US energy secretary defends clean tech investments

By John Parnell

The new US energy secretary has defended his department’s loan record as electric car manufacturer Tesla paid off its debt nine years early.

Ernst Moniz hailed the success of Tesla and said less than 2% of the Department of Energy’s (DoE) $34bn portfolio had resulted in losses.

“When you’re talking about cutting-edge clean energy technologies, not every investment will succeed,” said Moniz on his first day in office.

“Tesla’s repayment is the latest indication that the Energy Department’s portfolio of more than 30 loans is delivering big results for the American economy while costing far less than anticipated.”

The Tesla Roadster, one of several models produced by the firm’s 3000 employees (Source: Flickr/NRMAnewcars)

The collapse of the solar technology firm Solyndra left US taxpayers with a $500m bill and provided fodder for opponents of renewable energy investment.

Mitt Romney’s election campaign described Tesla and other recipients of DoE loans as “losers”.

Tesla announced that it will repay its $465m loan nine years early after raising around $1bn of financing from the markets.

The company has created 3000 jobs in California.

Moniz acknowledged that while 2% don’t work out, the benefits of those that do are more than just financial.

“The other 98 percent of the portfolio includes 19 new clean energy power plants that are adding enough solar, wind and geothermal capacity to power a million homes and displace 7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year – roughly equal to taking a million cars off the road,” he said.

The DoE has also provided a $5.9bn loan to Ford Motors to modernise 13 factories and improve the fuel efficiency of some of its vehicles.

A separate $1.4bn loan helped construct a new advanced battery factory that is now supplying Nissan’s all-electric LEAF vehicles.

The DoE has also backed solar, geothermal, wind and nuclear energy projects.

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