Key Issues > Duplication & Cost Savings > GAO's Action Tracker > Renewable Energy Initiatives
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Energy: Renewable Energy Initiatives

Federal support for wind and solar energy, biofuels, and other renewable energy sources, which has been estimated at several billion dollars per year, is fragmented because 23 agencies implemented hundreds of renewable energy initiatives in fiscal year 2010—the latest year for which GAO developed these original data. Further, the Departments of Energy and Agriculture could take additional actions—to the extent possible within their statutory authority—to help ensure effective use of financial support from several wind initiatives, which GAO found provided duplicative support that may not have been needed in all cases for projects to be built.

Action:

The Secretaries of Energy and Agriculture should, to the extent possible within their statutory authority, formally assess and document whether the incremental financial support of their initiatives is needed in order for applicants' projects to be built, and take this information into account in determining whether, or how much, support to provide. In the event agencies lack discretion to consider this information in determining what financial support to provide, they may want to report this limitation to Congress.

Progress:

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have taken steps to implement GAO's March 2013 recommendation to assess and consider whether applicants need the incremental federal financial support of their initiatives, or to report limitations on their discretion to do so to Congress. Specifically, with respect to a DOE initiative that GAO found provided support that may not have been needed for some projects to be built, DOE's most recent solicitation for applications required that applicants provide specific information to allow DOE to evaluate whether the applicants' projects could be fully financed without the initiative's incremental support. DOE also reported that those responsible for evaluating the information submitted by applicants would document the results of their evaluations. With respect to USDA's efforts to implement GAO's recommendation, in September 2013, USDA reported to Congress that determinations regarding whether to provide financial support, and if so how much, to applicants are established in the statutes governing its initiatives and that, under existing law, USDA has neither the discretion nor program purpose to formally assess applicant need in making these determinations. Assessing and considering applicants' financial need in determining whether to provide support, or how much to provide, is important in order for DOE and USDA to have reasonable assurance that they are effectively allocating the financial support of their initiatives among applicants' projects.

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    • Frank Rusco
    • Director, Natural Resources and Environment
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