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Don't Let Politics Cause Us to Lose Sight of Our Energy Security Goal

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In his budget proposal presented this week, Congressman Paul Ryan not only gets the facts wrong on the Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program, but also misses the point entirely on the importance of renewable energy and our nation's energy future.

The DOE's Loan Guarantee Program has been massively successful in both technology advancement and job creation, and SolarReserve's Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project is a shining example of the program's success. While Congressman Ryan calls out supposed failures with the Obama administration's energy policy, he fails to recognize that the DOE's Loan Guarantee program has been massively successful, creating over 60,000 jobs to date, while also remaining on track to earn the government more than $8 billion in interest payments.

Congressman Ryan fails to mention that 98 percent of the DOE loan program's funding remains within active projects that are creating jobs and helping the U.S. become a leader in the worldwide renewable technology market. Also missing from his attack on renewable energy is the fact that subsidies provided to the oil, gas, nuclear and coal industries dwarf any provided to renewable energy, as do the lobbying dollars spent by the oil, gas, nuclear and coal industries.

The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy project developed by SolarReserve is also a tremendous success story for U.S.-developed technology and the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program. Once construction is complete, the project will be the world's largest solar thermal tower project with integrated energy storage, providing a firm supply of solar energy, even after dark. In addition to the loan guarantee from the DOE, which was finalized in September of 2011, the project raised an additional $260 million in project equity to fund the plant construction.

Utilizing U.S.-developed technology that is now the industry's leading technology, the Crescent Dunes Project began construction in the fall of 2011, and is on schedule and on budget for completion of construction and start of plant commissioning at the end of 2013. With more than 450 people currently on site in construction, both union and non-union workers, the Crescent Dunes Project will generate over 4,300 direct, indirect and induced jobs over the 30-month construction period. The advanced technology developed by SolarReserve utilizes innovative energy storage to provide firm and reliable solar energy, day or night, thus solving the intermittency issues common to other solar and wind renewable energy technologies.

Prior to receiving the loan guarantee, the project secured a 25-year power purchase agreement under a competitive bid process with NV Energy, the largest utility in Nevada, who will purchase 100 percent of the electricity generation which will provide a firm revenue stream for the project in order to repay the loan in its entirety. The loan guarantee program is actually a revenue generator for the U.S. government, as the Crescent Dunes project alone will pay more than $300 million in estimated interest payments in addition to principal repayment.

This project, made possible in part by the DOE's loan guarantee program, is a major U.S. technology success story as SolarReserve is currently engaged in negotiations and project development which would result in technology exports to Europe, Saudi Arabia, Chile, South Africa, Australia, and potentially a dozen other markets.

Once operational, the Crescent Dunes project will expend 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 20 years of operation -- contributing to workers' paychecks, service businesses, local school systems and police and fire departments.

What the U.S. needs more than misleading and erroneous reports is an energy plan that looks further ahead than partisan politics. We need an energy plan that includes considerations for developing new and secure energy sources that create globally competitive sustainable industries. A comprehensive plan would result in a cleaner energy future and reduce our dependency on volatile fuels, including reliance on imported oil. We need to continue to progress the high-growth renewable energy sector, especially its $6 billion solar-power industry and the more than 100,000 Americans it employs, which has expanded significantly under President Obama. 1 We need to stop playing a political game with America's energy future.

A look at recent energy issues in the U.S. provides clear view of how partisan politics can stall U.S. energy advanced: a legislature still divided, bickering over renewable energy funding; environmental concerns over natural gas "fracking" and oil drilling; disagreement regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline; and a nation still without a diversified long-term energy plan. We also seem to gloss over that regardless of whether oil is imported or domestically drilled, we end up paying 'world oil prices' and will be competing with the accelerating appetite for oil in the emerging markets such as China and India.

It's a fact that investing in clean technologies creates jobs and promotes energy security. Instead of playing politics, the U.S. needs to focus on enacting a long-term energy plan not only for energy security, but to meet our increasing energy demand. While many countries are putting long-term energy plans in place -- including China, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Canada, Saudi Arabia and others -- the U.S. lags dramatically.

I have worked in the energy industry -- from solar and wind to natural gas, oil, biomass and even nuclear -- for more than 30 years. I want my three children to live in a country that is able to rely on its own clean and sustainable resources and its own citizens to provide our energy needs. I don't want their generation, like ours, to be held prisoner to high-priced world oil prices, environmental concerns and geopolitical pressures.

The time to act is now. We can't afford to risk our future on technologies of the past. We need to move forward toward a clean and secure energy future.

Sources:
1. 2010 figures, Solar Energy Industries Association and the Solar Foundation's National Solar Jobs Census 2010.

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