In its request for the Department of Energy (DOE), the FY 2019 President’s Budget calls for eliminating the Title 17 Energy Loan Guarantee Program, after first calling for its end last year.
The Title XVII Program, created in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and expanded in the 2009 Stimulus (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), puts the full faith and credit of the United States on the line for energy projects employing a range of technologies, including renewable, nuclear, and advanced fossil fuels. However, with lending terms far more generous than the private sector for high-risk projects, TCS has opposed the program from the beginning.
But in an act of hypocrisy, just four months after last year’s budget was released calling to terminate the program, the DOE Loan Program Office offered the owners of the Vogtle Project in Georgia an additional $3.7 billion in loan guarantees, putting this proposal squarely at odds with the administration’s own intent of program termination. The offer came after the Vogtle owners announced their nuclear reactor construction project was more than $11 billion over budget and as much as six years behind schedule. That offer was also conveniently issued on Sept. 29, 2017, just one day before the end of the government’s fiscal year, allowing it to escape the axe if the Title 17 program was eliminated for FY 2018.
The net effect is the DOE talking out of both sides of its mouth – calling to cancel the program, but then actively choosing to risk billions more to bail out a nuclear boondoggle. If finalized, the additional $3.7 billion would bring the total amount of loan guarantees for the Vogtle project to $12 billion. For the sake of taxpayers, we hope the DOE is actually committed to ending the risky Title 17 Program this year.