Small Business Participation in the Department of Energy's Solar Energy Programs

EMD-80-119: Published: Sep 29, 1980. Publicly Released: Sep 29, 1980.

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GAO was asked to review a number of matters regarding small business participation in the Department of Energy's (DOE) solar energy programs. The areas reviewed included: (1) the extent to which small businesses participate in the DOE solar energy programs; (2) the DOE efforts to encourage innovativeness by small businesses in the solar area; and (3) the background and experience key DOE officials have in dealing with small businesses. Although DOE has taken some actions to encourage small business participation in carrying out its various energy programs, some Members of Congress and small businesses have criticized DOE for not doing enough to encourage the use of small businesses.

DOE estimates the small businesses' share of solar program funding for fiscal year 1980 to be about 14.5 percent. Direct funding of small businesses for carrying out Federal programs has been relatively low, but small businesses have been much more involved in the solar energy programs by becoming subcontractors to those organizations directly funded by DOE. Although DOE-wide goals have been established, solar-wide goals have not. Some individual solar energy program managers, however, have established goals for their respective programs. The inclusion of small businesses in these programs requires close monitoring, but GAO found that the DOE Integrated Procurement Management Information System (IPMIS) was not delivering adequate information on small businesses. DOE has two programs which are intended to encourage innovations by small businesses, but neither was designed especially for encouraging solar-related ideas, and both are relatively small. However, individual solar program managers have used various funding approaches to encourage innovativeness by small businesses within their respective programs. The prior work experience of 14 key DOE officials associated with the solar energy programs indicated only limited small business experience. In addition, none had received any apparent training aimed at understanding the difficulties that small businesses face.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should: (1) direct that goals be established for using small businesses in the solar energy programs, as a whole, and for individual solar energy programs, and that such goals be considered in formulating the DOE overall procurement goals for small businesses; (2) give priority attention to correcting existing problems surrounding the use of the IPMIS and to monitoring the continuing development of the system to ensure adherence to the present schedule for incorporating summary data on subcontracts; and (3) emphasize the need for solar program officials to obtain training to become more sensitive and aware of small business problems.

    Agency Affected:


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