Department of Energy: Further Actions Are Needed to Improve DOE’s Ability to Evaluate and Implement the Loan Guarantee Program
DOE has taken steps to implement the Loan Guarantee Program (LGP) for applicants but has treated applicants inconsistently and lacks mechanisms to identify and address their concerns. Among other things, DOE increased the LGP’s staff, expedited procurement of external reviews, and developed procedures for deciding which projects should receive loan guarantees. However, GAO found:
- DOE’s implementation of the LGP has treated applicants inconsistently, favoring some (such as nuclear power) and disadvantaging others. For example, DOE conditionally committed to issuing loan guarantees for some projects prior to completion of external reviews required under DOE procedures. Because applicants must pay for such reviews, this procedural deviation has allowed some applicants to receive conditional commitments before incurring expenses that other applicants had to pay. It is unclear how DOE could have sufficient information to negotiate conditional commitments without such reviews.
- DOE lacks systematic mechanisms for LGP applicants to administratively appeal its decisions or to provide feedback to DOE on its process for issuing loan guarantees. Instead, DOE rereviews rejected applications on an ad hoc basis and gathers feedback through public forums and other outreach efforts that do not ensure the views obtained are representative.
Until DOE develops implementation processes it can adhere to consistently, along with systematic approaches for rereviewing applications and obtaining and addressing applicant feedback, it may not fully realize the benefits envisioned for the LGP.