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Energy

Chu Defends Loan Programs

by Jeff Johnson
November 28, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 48

The day after a four-hour grilling by hostile Republican members of a House oversight subcommittee, Energy Secretary Steven Chu traveled to Colorado to visit a solar-panel manufacturer and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). At the Nov. 17 subcommittee hearing, House Republicans continued their eight-month-long investigation into Chu’s decision to grant a loan guarantee to the now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Solyndra. Particularly, the hearing focused on his decision to modify loan terms to spur private investors to give Solyndra an additional $75 million in the months before the company failed. Chu defended the Solyndra guarantee and the Department of Energy’s renewable energy support programs, and he emphasized the importance of the $80 billion global solar energy marketplace. Republicans remained hostile to Chu and the program. Subcommittee Chairman Cliff B. Stearns (R-Fla.), for instance, called for his resignation and Rep. Brian P. Bilbray (R-Calif.) lectured Chu about the folly of DOE investments in thin-film solar technology. The day after the hearing, however, Chu visited PrimeStar Solar, a manufacturer of cadmium telluride thin-film solar panels, and NREL, which developed the technology. During the tours, Chu noted that GE has purchased the company and plans to build a new thin-film manufacturing facility in the state.

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