Solar finance pioneer Jigar Shah to lead $40 billion DOE Loan Programs Office

The technology will never be the bottleneck. The bottleneck is implementation and the ability to attract capital.”

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Jigar Shah, the co-founder of Generate and founder of SunEdison (where he pioneered no-money-down solar”), has been named head of the Biden administration’s DOE Loan Programs Office. It’s a critical post amid the climate emergency and a seemingly good fit for the deployment-minded financier and advocate of carbon-free energy.

The DOE Loan Programs Office supports large-scale energy infrastructure projects, with $40 billion to invest across three programs:

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  • Title 17: Advanced fossil, advanced nuclear and renewables.
  • ATVM: Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing for light-duty vehicles.
  • TELGP: The Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program is geared to scale all-of-the-above technologies and is not limited to renewables on tribal lands.
DOE Loan Program $40 Billion Available Debt Capital
Image: DOE Loan Program

The loan program was established in 2005 and signed into law by President George W. Bush. It’s one of the newer lending programs overseen by the U.S. federal government and provides structured financing and access to debt capital.

The Loan Programs Office portfolio totals over $35 billion and includes the Vogtle nuclear project, plus five large photovoltaic projects that originated during the financial crisis of the late aughts. It also seems to have an inordinate fondness for concentrating solar power. The successful program aims to provide affordable debt with extended tenors and can work with clients in the preapproval process.

DOE Loan Program $40 Billion Available Debt Capital
Image: DOE Loan Program

Shah has a long public record of favoring financial innovation with an eye toward deployment. He believes the DOE must focus on the deployment of existing technologies, rather than focusing solely on the agency’s research and innovation mission of the past. Shah’s team at Generate deployed capital to drive finance innovation rather than technological revolution.

Here are some collected Shahisms from over the years.

  • The solar industry is the poster child for what I call deployment-led innovation.’ The more we deploy, the more we learn and the more problems we can solve.”
  • The technology will never be the bottleneck. The bottleneck is implementation and the ability to attract capital.”
  • The growth of the industry is directly proportional to how much project money comes into the industry.”
  • Solar and wind technologies are basically crowding out other technologies [because of the tax incentives they receive]. […] We are not going to decarbonize our entire economy without at least 50 to 100 technologies – not just two.”
  • Deployment at trillion-dollar scale [can] unlock our economy while meeting our climate-change goals.”
  • What we need is a plan, industry coordination [and] finance securitization, and to actualize the notion that clean-energy access is the No. 1 thing we can export to lift millions out of poverty.”

Eric Wesoff is the managing editor of Canary Media. He's a prominent industry journalist, analyst, writer, consultant, speaker and expert witness in the renewable energy field.