My Old Job
December 12, 2020
The above article is from the WSJ.
It is talking about where I used to work at the Department of Energy. Yes, I worked in the “Solyndra” group.
No matter what you read, we were not a bunch of bureaucrats throwing around taxpayers’ money. I certainly think of myself as rather competent in the area of project finance. We worked with the best consultants and law firms in the country on these deals. (They worked for DOE but their bills were paid by the projects. And they were big bills!)
You can argue whether the government should be in the business of helping new industries bridge the “valley of death.” That’s where projects can’t raise debt because the market does not have a track record with the technology. (Most every government in developed world is in that business for select industries.). That decision was above my pay grade. But Congress under G.W. Bush set up the program. In other words, it was a Republican idea.
The program has a better track record than 95 percent of lenders which is remarkable given we dealt with first-of-a-kind technologies.
The WSJ doesn’t point out that net net the program has generated a profit for the Treasury.
But what really bothers me is this. If the WSJ is so wrong and one sided on this little piece of news, how wrong and one sided is it on the rest of the news? If I were a teacher, I’d flunk the writer of this piece. Sloppy, biased reporting. She had an agenda and she tortured the facts until they fit her agenda.
Yeah, it sucks this technology failed. Other projects we financed are using molten salt storage effectively. In fact the molten salt storage wasn’t the innovative part of this project as I recall. (We could only finance projects that in some significant way were using innovative technology). Since we did this deal, the industry has moved to using solar panels with battery storage (yeah, we financed the first of those, too.)
We were proud of how tough we were on the borrowers. We knew they had no other options but to borrow from us and we used that to our advantage. We were more proud of how many projects we turned away because they were too risky.