21st Century Energy Technology Deployment Act

July 11, 2008
12:01 PM
21st Century Energy Technology Deployment Act
Sen. Bingaman has introduced a bill that will increase the availability of financing for clean energy and energy efficiency technologies.  A hearing on that bill -- the 21st Century Energy Technology Deployment Act (S. 3233) -- is scheduled for next Tuesday.  Related legislation proposed by Sen. Domenici, S. 2730, also will be considered.   
“We can do the best possible job of developing advanced energy technologies and still have no impact if they aren’t commercialized,” Bingaman said.  “A key sticking point is the lack of private investment capital and financing – lenders see new technologies as too risky.  By developing new ways to securitize debt, we can effectively tap the enormous potential of private capital to move these new technologies to market – a potential that right now is not being realized.”
S. 3233 calls for the creation of a corporation with a strong financial expertise whose main purpose is to promote an attractive investment environment for the development and deployment of new clean energy technologies.  This new corporation would be subject to oversight and technology guidance by the U.S. Department of Energy.  Other features are:
Technology Deployment Goals – The general design of the bill is to create a fairly autonomous corporation, with strong guidance and aggressive goals for technology deployment set by the Secretary.  The bill sets out a process for goal setting in the various areas, then mandates numerical targets for achieving the goals, against which the performance of the corporation may be judged.  Some initial targets are based on the DOE technology roadmap.
Technologies – The explicit goal of the corporation is to encourage deployment of technologies that are perceived as too risky by commercial lenders.  Thus, the corporation is encouraged to back riskier technologies with a higher potential to address our climate and energy security needs.  The corporation is to use a portfolio investment approach in order to mitigate risk and is to try and become self-sustaining over the long term by balancing riskier investments with revenues from other services and less risky investments.
Corporate Structure – The corporation will be governed by a board of directors, with a permanent role for the Secretary of Energy.  Like other previous successful government corporations, it would eventually be authorized to issue common stock to fund its operations, but an initial period is contemplated where it would be wholly owned by the government.  The corporation also will have a permanent Technology Advisory Council to advise on the technological credibility of projects and to set goals for the corporation. 
Corporate Functions – The primary function of the corporation is to securitize private loans and sell bonds based on their revenues in order to allow a greater amount of less-expensive lending in the private sector.  The corporation also would seek to accommodate riskier debt and thus provide a mechanism and an incentive for lenders to provide riskier loans.
Oversight – In addition to audits by the Comptroller General of financial activities, the Secretary is directly responsible for ensuring the financial soundness of the corporation.  The Secretary will have unfettered access to the books of the corporation and is required to set management and internal control standards for the corporation.
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