July 6, 2015

Government Financing of Clean Technologies is Widespread

Holland & Knight Government Energy Finance Blog
Taite R. McDonald

Despite the significant fiscal uncertainty and political gridlock of Congress over the past three years, federal investment in clean technology remains widely available. Programs that were originally developed under the Bush Administration remain funded at generally comparable levels under the Obama Administration and attractive opportunities consistently remain available under Departments of Energy (DOE) and Agriculture (USDA) grant and loan programs for qualified applicants. Furthermore, procurement opportunities within the Department of Defense (DOD) for renewable energy systems and technologies have significantly expanded in recent years. Indeed, in recent executive orders, the President has ordered the federal government to triple its procurement of renewable energy.

These federal initiatives continue to sustain collaboration between industry and government in developing innovative, first-of-a-kind clean energy technologies and facilities, despite political brinkmanship in Congress. Indeed, such programs for industry-led but taxpayer-supported research, development, demonstration, and commercialization generally receive bipartisan support. The Holland & Knight Government Energy Finance Team has helped companies from early stage startups to established utilities, automakers, and fuel producers take advantage of these investment opportunities to prove new technologies and/or penetrate commercial markets. Since their respective clean technology programs began, each of the federal agencies discussed below has progressed and refined its approach to collaborating with industry.

The expansion of renewable energy procurement opportunities within the DOD in recent years has increased the number of programs available to energy technologies, but has also created a fractured field of subprograms across military branches that utilize different public-private channels than exist in DOE and USDA. In recent years, DOD has focused on soliciting clean technologies that can both enhance operational effectiveness and save lives while also reducing energy costs. The continuing value proposition DOD presents with its energy-related programs—in this austere budget environment—is a strong path forward for industry to achieving technological, financial, and market viability. The military has historically played the role of early adopter in the space of innovative energy technologies.

Given the crucial role that government plays in the energy sector—especially in terms of helping companies overcoming the capital‐intensive hurdles that new energy technologies encounter on their path to market—the policy and funding landscape for the federal government in Fiscal Year 2016 is more important than ever. In addition to these opportunities at DOE, USDA, and DOD, there are several lesser‐known federal financing options and newly retooled programs that companies and investors can take advantage of. This primer provides an overview of these government financing options and how they can support the many alternative and clean energy technologies being developed around the country.

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