Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) warned against a “knee-jerk” response to Solyndra, breaking with top Republicans as she voiced her support for federally backed renewable energy programs, including the loan program that aided the now-bankrupt solar manufacturer.
“I think we need to get through this period and be able to reflect on what it is that actually comes out of these loan guarantee programs," Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told The Hill Tuesday. "We are focusing right now on the failures instead of also recognizing that we have done good things for the loan guarantee program. We need to make sure it does what it is supposed to be doing."
Murkowski's support for the Energy Department's loan-guarantee program comes after GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney chastised the president for "picking winners and losers” in private industry, hosting a press conference at Solyndra's headquarters in Fremont, Calif., last week to draw attention to the failed solar company that received $535 million in federal loans before going belly-up late last year.
“I do believe there is a role, and perhaps that sets me apart from some of my other colleagues on Capitol Hill,” Murkowski acknowledged in her interview with The Hill. “I think we need to do a critical, hard assessment and make sure it is doing that which we had intended."
A Bloomberg government analysis of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program found that 87 percent of the portfolio is low-risk and that even if the 10 highest risk programs defaulted, there would be nearly half a billion dollars in the fund to cover losses.
The main takeaway from the report is that 87 percent of the value of all the 1705 loan guarantees (18 of the 28 projects) went to power generation projects, as opposed to manufacturing projects like Solyndra’s factory. The DOE required generation projects to secure a buyer before receiving a loan guarantee — ensuring stable revenue and significantly reducing the risk of the investment. In fact, Shayle Kann, a solar power market expert at GTM Research, has said that these projects have almost no risk of default.
Murkowski would become chairwoman of the energy panel should Republicans win the Senate this fall.