Small business captures largest share of renewable energy grants

The Department of Energy (DoE) says small businesses (<500 employees) have received US$5.4 billion in funding from the Recovery Act and related programmes, 10% of the total of US$52.4 bn including grants, loans, loan guarantees, contracts and tax incentives. Of 1,933 selections, small business accounted for 33% of the total.

Of US$10.5 bn in competitive grants, CCS (carbon capture & sequestration) allocated only 1% to small business, while 3% of grid modernization and 9% of energy efficiency monies went to small firms. Transportation allocated 14% and Science & Innovation awarded 16% to small business.

In renewable energy, there were 248 selections of which 66 (27%) went to small business. In dollar terms, small businesses received US$111m of total grants of US$493m, or 23%.

Small businesses are important players in renewable energy

“Small business are the backbone of job creation in this country and have been a spring board for innovation in the clean energy sector,” says DoE secretary Steven Chu. “The work these companies do and the innovation they produce will go a long way in helping our economy grow and our nation succeed.”

"Small businesses have created about 64% of the new jobs over the past 15 years,” adds Karen Mills of DoE’s Small Business Administration. “Already, small businesses are one of the driving forces in the green energy sector.”

Chu released a report that highlights 26 small businesses in wind and solar, as well as new infrastructure, Smart Grid, advanced batteries, energy storage, and energy efficiency tools. The report also notes that small businesses are helping to advance responsible environmental clean-up efforts.

Investments under the Recovery Act in small businesses will have a significant impact on job creation, the report adds. The 14.5m jobs created in the sector (of the 22.5m net new jobs between 1993 and late 2008) will accelerate the rate of innovation in different sectors of the clean energy economy.

New jobs in renewable energy

Many new jobs will be created indirectly through companies that support Recovery Act awardees or benefit from increased opportunities in the clean technology industry.

The Section 1703 Loan Guarantee Program can support US$51 bn in loan guarantees and the Recovery Act authorised the Loan Guarantee Program to make additional loan guarantees through the appropriation of US$4 bn to cover credit subsidy costs to support US$35 bn in loan guarantees for certain conventional renewable energy systems that start construction by September 2011.

Under the 48C Program, US$2.3 bn in tax credits have been allocated for 183 projects in 43 states, which will support total capital investments of US$7.7 bn in the domestic manufacturing of solar, wind and energy management technologies, and another US$5 bn may be appropriated this year.

This month, the Department of Treasury announced 1,603 awards of US$2.7 bn to 450 domestic renewable energy projects in 41 states, including wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, and combined heat & power. The programme is not capped and DoE expects to provide US$5 bn of awards to support US$15 bn in projects under the Recovery Act.

DoE to encourage more help for small firms in renewable energy

“There is still more that can be done to create opportunities for small businesses in the clean energy economy,” the report concludes. “To that end, DoE is working to make existing programs more accessible to small businesses while introducing new programs that target small businesses.”

“The success of small businesses is essential for the recovery of the US economy, job creation and America’s global competitiveness, and the Recovery Act has gone a long way toward positioning small businesses for leadership in the clean energy economy.”