Going out in a blaze: DOE announces clean energy financing & projects

It is hard to cast last week’s election of Donald Trump as the next president as anything but bad news for solar. If there is any saving grace, it is that with each year federal support becomes less important, and that most of the driving policies for solar in the United States are at the state level.

That being said, the signs do not look good. Trump has appointed utility and fossil fuel lobbyist Mike McKenna to handle the transition team at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), where insiders who pv magazine spoke with report concern for the future of the SunShot Initiative.

But despite Koch Brothers lobbyists openly prowling the corridors of DOE, today the agency reminded us that the federal government is still under the control of President Obama, and came out with all guns firing on clean energy support programs. This includes announcing $124 million in funding for solar projects in El Salvador and India through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a major expansion of Mission Innovation, and a host of other projects.

Of the $124 million, $50 million will go to support eight utility-scale solar projects in El Salvador. The other $74 million will fund a 100 MW utility-scale solar project in the new Indian state of Telangana, as part of a $250 million facility in collaboration with ReNew Power Ventures to support up to 400 MW of new solar in multiple Indian states.

A press release by OPIC notes that the commitment for the project funding and the facility was signed at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Morocco.

In cooperation with the government of India and “leading philanthropies”, OPIC will also launch a $20 million distributed solar facility, which DOE says will address a key financing gap in the Indian distributed solar market by funding early-stage project work.

In addition to this, DOE is announcing major expansion of Mission Innovation, the Bill Gates-inspired international innovation program which aims to double public investment in clean energy R&D to $30 billion in five years. Mission Innovation has welcomed Finland and the Netherlands to the initiative, as well as launching seven new innovation challenges focused on topics including smart grids, off-grid access to electricity and clean energy materials.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State have also announced a partnership with National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) to identify energy entrepreneurs in emerging markets, to help them expand their work, and to link them to investors.

As if that were not enough, DOE also announced that it is expanding the development of renewable energy projects and access to renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa through the Power Africa Initiative. This includes new collaborations with Microsoft, the Acumen Fund and the United Nations Foundation, and a partnership with Morocco to host the first solar decathlon competition in Africa.

The beauty of many of these moves is that they can be completed before Trump and his band of lobbyists and climate-denying shills actually take the reigns of power. For the other solar work of the DOE, it remains to be seen how long it will survive.