DOE loan office director Jonathan Silver resigns amid Solyndra loan debate

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Following on from the recent Solyndra debacle, the head of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Loan Program, Jonathan Silver, has resigned his post. Although the two incidents might well be unrelated, media reports are hinting at the two being linked, following the DOE’s bestowal of a loan of US$535 million to the now-bankrupt Solyndra.

DOE Energy Secretary Steven Chu commented that Silver had had long-running plans to leave the office upon the 1705 loan program’s expiration on September 30. He will join policy think-tank Third Way as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow, according to reports.

“Since he joined the department in November 2009, Jonathan assembled and managed a truly outstanding team that has transformed the program into the world leader in financing innovative clean energy projects,” said Steven Chu. “Under his leadership, the loan program has demonstrated considerable success, with a broad portfolio of investments that will help American companies compete in the global clean energy market.”

Having held the role of Loan Program director since November 2009, Silver joined the DOE only a matter of months after the department granted the US$535 million loan to Solyndra. However, despite his not having been involved in the loan’s approval, it is said that Silver came under huge congressional and media pressure as the hub of loan operations for the administration. Solyndra had been regarded as the “cleantech darling” of President Obama's administration.

Jonathan Silver’s statement following Solyndra’s reported bankruptcy is available on the DOE’s website; a portion of this statement is reproduced below:

“In light of these changes in the solar market, the Department, which was closely monitoring Solyndra, regularly discussed with the company its need to aggressively cut costs in order to remain competitive.  Of course, as a lender, the Department did not have the ability to mandate specific cost-cutting measures, and Solyndra itself proved unable to cut its costs sufficiently to remain competitive.  In early September, having failed to raise the additional capital then needed to continue operations, the company filed for bankruptcy… Without DOE’s agreement to restructure Solyndra’s loan, the company likely would have faced bankruptcy much earlier – in December 2010.”

Prior to joining the DOE’s Loan Program, Silver co-founded and held the role of managing director of Core Capital Partners, an alternative energy technology, manufacturing, software and telecommunications investment firm. Over the duration of Silver’s post with the DOE, the 1705 loan program fiscally supported 28 renewable projects.

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