Stimulus Update: Funding Opportunities from the U.S. Government


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Stimulus Update: Funding Opportunities from the U.S. Government

SEMI is committed to helping our members and during these difficult times. It is particularly important for our members to understand funding opportunities that are available from the U.S. Government. This economic stimulus bill update includes a summary of grant and loan guarantee opportunities on PV as well as other programs that are broader in scope which could include semiconductor equipment and materials companies. The details regarding the disbursement of the stimulus funds are still being worked out. Be sure to watch for updates from SEMI and check the websites identified in this document regularly.

Economic Stimulus Package

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (stimulus bill) contained several provisions that will provide great opportunities for SEMI member companies involved in solar energy. SEMI PV Group was very active and launched an intense lobbying effort (including Congressional meetings, letters to Congressional leadership) and “Calls to Action”) that produced results. Several of the critical meetings included:

  • Senate Majority Leader Reid’s (D-NV) tax and R&D staff
  • House Ways and Means Tax Counsel
  • House Science Committee staff
  • Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee staff
  • Rep. G. Miller (D-CA)– conferee on final bill
  • Sen. Cantwell (D-WA) tax staffer– alternative energy proponent
  • Senate Finance Committee Tax Counsels (Majority and Minority)
  • Rep. Lee (R-NY)– new member with familiarity with our industry

SEMI PV Group efforts helped secure big wins in the final bill with special emphasis on solar energy including:

    1. Manufacturing Tax Credit

  • 30 percent for facilities that manufacture renewable energy products
  • Cap of $2.3 billion
  • Treasury has 180 days to create certification program with a competitive application process

    2. New DOE Grant Program

  • An alternative to the investment tax credit (instead of making ITC refundable)

    3. DOE Loan Guarantee Program

  • New, temporary program
  • $6 billion in funding which should cover guarantees for about $60 billion in loans
  • Watch for further developments, potential Clean Energy Bank

    4. Increased Government Procurement

  • About $6 billion for federal buildings and military installations

    5. R&D Funding Specifics

  • National Science Foundation— $3 billion
  • National Institute for Standards and Technology— $600 million; but no increase for Technology Innovation Program
  • Department of Energy— Office of Science: $1.6 billion
  • Department of Energy— Energy Efficiency and Renewables: $2.5 billion
  • Advanced Research Projects— Energy: $400 million

As a result of the stimulus bill, the budget for the Department of Energy (DOE) more than doubled. At this time, only Secretary Chu has been appointed, but several other appointed positions need filling at the DOE. Given this, it appears that the DOE has more money than they are equipped to spend. Currently, there is not much information about the details for the grants, but SEMI has compiled information that currently exists about these opportunities. SEMI will send out additional information as more details regarding the RFP’s and applications becomes available.

What Should You Do Now?

    1. Monitor the official source for funding opportunities: www.grants.gov.

    2. Sign up for the DOE newsletter: Send an email indicating that you would like to receive their newsletter to: solar@ee.doe.gov. This will keep you informed through announcements regarding funding opportunities as well as other program developments

    3. Regularly check for updates with DOE at: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/financial_opportunities.html

    4. If you are interested, track where the funding is going at: www.recovery.gov. This website was created to increase transparency and provide information to the public about how the stimulus funds are being used.

Grants

SEMI recommends member companies research the exiting grant opportunities. The following is a summary of existing programs for PV and other areas. Please note that a couple of these programs have application deadlines in March. SEMI encourages members to come to Washington to meet with these agency officials. Our Washington, D.C. office can help get you in touch with the right officials and help you schedule the meetings.

  • Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) at www.sbir.gov: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Technology administers the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program. Through these two competitive programs, SBA ensures that the nation's small, high-tech, innovative businesses are a significant part of the federal government's research and development efforts. Eleven federal departments participate in the SBIR program; five departments participate in the STTR program awarding $2 billion to small high-tech businesses.
  • Technology Innovation Program (TIP) at www.nist.gov/tip: TIP supports, promotes, and accelerates innovation in the United States through high-risk, high-reward research in areas of critical national need. TIP has the agility and flexibility to make targeted investments in transformational R&D that will ensure our Nation’s future through sustained technological leadership. This program provides matching funds for government-industry partnerships and is available to small to medium sized companies only.
  • Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at http://www.darpa.mil/funding_opportunities.html: DARPA is the central research and development office for the U.S. Department of Defense. DARPA’s mission is to maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military and prevent technological surprise from harming our national security. We also create technological surprise for our adversaries.
  • ARPA-E at (No website at this time): The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is a new program at the U.S. Department of Energy, which is similar to the successful DARPA program. ARPA-E supports transformational energy technology research projects with the goal of enhancing the nation's economic and energy security. It was established through the America Competes Act during the last Congress but was never funded. However, the stimulus bill included $400 million to fund ARPA-E. The DOE is currently establishing how to distribute the funds the ARPA-E funds.
  • Department of Energy Photovoltaic (PV) Technology Pre-Incubator athttp://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/pv_preincubator.html: The PV Technology Pre-Incubator project focuses on accelerating the advancement of demonstrated PV module-related technologies to the prototype stage of technology development. The technologies are expected to be innovative, potentially disruptive, and capable of commercialization by 2015. Responses are limited to U.S. small businesses or teams led by a U.S. small business. Application deadline is March 10, 2009.
  • Solar America Showcase General Projects at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/solar_america_showcases.html: Solar America Showcases are designed to help facilitate large-scale installations that involve cutting-edge solar technologies, novel applications of solar, high visibility sites, and/or high likelihood of replicability. Solar America Showcase is a Notice of Opportunity for Technical Assistance (NOTA) for proposed installations more than 250 kW and does not include direct federal funding for any recipient. Instead, showcase projects include technical assistance through teams of DOE-funded solar experts from national laboratories. Next application deadline - March 15, 2009.
  • State Incentives at http://www.dsireusa.org/index.cfm?&CurrentPageID=2&EE=0&RE=1: Many states offer very good renewable energy incentives. The link is a comprehensive database as a source of information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.

DOE Loan Guarantee Webinar

On Thursday, March 5 from 1:00-2:30 pm (Eastern Time), the DOE is holding a webinar (http://www.infocastinc.com/index.php/conference/doeloanweb) on the new loan guarantee program authorized by the stimulus bill. SEMI strongly encourages members who are interested in the loan guarantee program to join this webinar. Webinar speakers include:

  • Keith Martin, partner, Chadbourne & Parke LLP (Washington, D.C), moderator
  • Steven S. Greenwald, managing director, Credit Suisse
  • Kenneth Hansen, partner, Chadbourne & Parke LLP
  • Walter S. Howes, managing partner, Verdigris Capital, and a former head of the DOE loan guarantee program
  • Dan Tobin, senior investment officer, U.S. Department of Energy, Loan Guarantee program

DOE Loan Guarantees

Existing Program: The DOE Loan Guarantee program (http://www.lgprogram.energy.gov/) is one to pursue for a low interest rate on a large sum of money of $50 million or more (loans for under $50 million are possible). Under the current loan guarantee program, there are significant costs associated with such loan guarantees because the DOE has a mandate from Congress to facilitate the loans, but not to lose any money on it. Therefore, the recipient has to pay for external diligence on the viability of the business proposition (the loan will be repaid by money made with the assets purchased and secured by the loan), and pay for insurance against default.

Companies should give careful consideration to pursuing the loan guarantee if the project is under $50 million. The DOE expects to be offering loan guarantees under the existing loan guarantee program by late April or early May and can provide loan guarantees for renewable energy projects, including PV installations and PV manufacturing plants.

New Program: The new loan guarantee program authorized by the stimulus bill will be improved. The DOE is authorized to guarantee about $60 to $80 billion in loans to finance renewable energy projects, factories that make equipment used in such projects, electric transmission projects and some biofuels facilities. On February 25, the Department of Energy announced that it will expedite the disbursement of funds that were received through the stimulus bill (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009).

The DOE is increasing staff and resources as well as simplifying loan applications and streamlining the process so that the DOE can start reviewing the applications when they are received. Previously, the DOE would not begin reviewing the applications until the application deadline. The stimulus bill loan guarantees are expected to begin disbursement in early summer, with plans to disburse 70 percent of the stimulus funds by the end of 2010. The DOE is taking steps to reduce the costs of the loans by allowing applicants the opportunity to pay the fees at closing and by restructuring credit subsidies so that they are paid over the life of the loan. Additionally, the DOE will establish a web site to increase transparency in both the process and the results.

For More Information

Please contact Maggie Hershey (mhershey@semi.org) in the Washington, D.C. office.

March 3, 2009