Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Mitt Romney’s VP candidate, attacked SolarReserve’s 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes solar power tower project and Sempra’s 150-megawatt Mesquite Solar 1 photovoltaic solar power plant specifically and renewables in general in his just-released 2014 House budget proposal.

SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith, who is negotiating “in Europe, Saudi Arabia, China, Chile, South Africa, Australia, and a dozen other markets” to build SolarReserve’s breakthrough technology, which incorporates storage to resolve solar’s variability, took exception to Ryan's claims.

 

RYAN (in the budget proposal)

The latest ill-fated [Obama administration DOE] ventures include a $737 million loan guarantee to Solar Reserve for a 110-megawatt solar tower on federal land in Nevada and a $337 million guarantee for Mesquite Solar 1 to develop a 150-megawatt solar plant in Arizona.

SMITH

Crescent Dunes is a success story and will be a tremendous achievement for U.S.-developed technology and the U.S. Department of Energy's loan guarantee program.

Crescent Dunes began construction in the fall of 2011, and is under budget and on schedule for commissioning and first electricity generation by the end of 2013, almost a year ahead of the power purchase agreement (PPA) obligation it has to NV Energy, Nevada’s largest utility. Prior to receiving the loan guarantee, the project secured the 25-year contract for 100 percent of its electricity generation. That will provide a firm revenue stream to repay the loan.

Crescent Dunes now has 497 workers on site, both union and non-union, and will generate over 4,300 direct, indirect and induced jobs over the 30-month construction period. 

RYAN (in the budget proposal)

Many of the administration’s loan-guarantee projects have failed.

SMITH

The loan guarantee program has a more than 97 percent success rate and is actually a revenue generator for the U.S. government. The Crescent Dunes project will pay more than $300 million in estimated interest payments in addition to principal repayment. It will also pay more than $10 million per year in salaries and operating costs, and is forecasted to generate $73 million in total tax revenues through the first twenty years of operation. 

The loan guarantee program was instituted during the Bush administration with strong Republican support. It was intended to drive innovative technologies. Failures were anticipated and budgeted for. The program under President Obama is well under that budget and far more successful than comparable military investments in innovation.

[Note: Mesquite Solar 1, GTM reported when the project went on-line in January, “almost certainly won’t cost taxpayers a cent, since the $337 million in loans that the U.S. backed will likely be paid off, as the plant uses free fuel -- sunlight -- to crank out electricity, which will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric under a twenty-year agreement.” And, GTM added, “a Bloomberg Government analysis found that since nearly 90 percent of the loan program was invested in energy projects that had buyers for the power they will produce, the risk of big losses was minimal.”]

RYAN (in the budget proposal)

The administration continues to penalize economically competitive sources of energy and to reward their uncompetitive alternatives. [...T]he U.S. combined recoverable natural-gas, oil, and coal endowment is the largest on earth. […] Nonetheless, the administration continues to leave these energy sources untapped.

SMITH

A lot of the fossil and nuclear industry subsidies have been turned into tax code provisions and are no longer considered subsidies. And the renewable energies have just gotten into the subsidy game and the big recent subsidies numbers are skewed by how much went to ethanol.

A DBL Investors study looked at total subsidies and found that the fossil industries have received vastly more over time.

I have supported an all-of-the-above energy policy my whole career and that is certainly what President Obama has called for. Look at the facts: Oil and gas drilling is at an all-time high, production is at an all-time high, and the importing of foreign oil is the lowest in 25 years. How is the president against them? What President Obama is doing is making sure there are alternatives, because oil and gas prices are going to go back up because of the demand in places like India and China and because we are slaves to world prices.

RYAN (in the budget proposal)

The White House provided over six times the subsidies for these green-energy programs, which the Energy Information Administration says also produced the smallest amounts of energy.

SMITH

What he is saying is that the newest sources of energy have the least market share. That’s obvious. Forty or 50 years ago, the nuclear industry started with 0.1 percent or 0.2 percent of the market. It took about a decade to get to any significant share. Now it is a substantial part of our energy supply.

What is really interesting is that more than 50 percent of all new power generation came from renewables in 2012. Going forward, it is obviously the fuel of choice.

Tags: 2014 house budget, crescent dunes, department of energy, doe, fossil fuel industry, loan guarantee, mesquite solar 1, mitt romney, new power generation, nuclear industry, nv energy, obama administration, oil and gas, paul ryan, photovoltaic