The DOE’s $40 billion: Jigar Shah oversees the “bridge to bankability” for energy startups in advanced nuclear, biofuels, next-gen vehicles, and more

If you could direct $40 billion towards the world’s most critical climate technologies, which would you choose? For Jigar Shah, Director of the Loan Programs Office (LPO) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), that’s no hypothetical. His office serves as a “bridge to bankability,” funding commercial-scale climate tech deployments that are too expensive and risky for private investors. As of July 2022, Shah and his team were actively reviewing 77 loan applications requesting a combined $80.8 billion for advanced nuclear, biofuels, next-gen vehicles, and more. But how does Shah choose which applications to fund? Which sectors and technologies does he view as most important to the energy transition?

Shah addressed these question at the SOSV Climate Tech Summit (Oct. 25-26). Interviewing Shah was Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, The Economist’s global energy & climate innovation editor. You can see their conversation below.

With over 726,000 LinkedIn followers and first-hand experience building climate tech startups, Shah is no typical bureaucrat. Until March 2021, he was co-founder and CEO of Generate Capital, a firm that builds, owns, operates, and finances clean infrastructure. He was previously CEO of the Carbon War Room, a climate change nonprofit founded by Sir Richard Branson, and founder and CEO of SunEdison, which pioneered “pay as you save” solar financing.  

Recently, Shah’s office closed a $504.4 million loan guarantee to the Advanced Clean Energy Storage project in Utah, the largest clean hydrogen storage facility in the world. It also made a $102.1 million loan to Syrah Technologies for the expansion of its facility that produces graphite-based active anode material (AAM) for lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles and other clean technologies. 

The LPO reports that in 2021, its $30 billion portfolio displaced 15.2 million tons of CO2. However, the US still emitted 4.9 billion tons of CO2 in 2021. Can the LPO scale its impact in time to help the US reach its climate targets?   

Learn more about the Summit.

Jigar Shah is Director, Loan Programs Office, at the U.S. Department of Energy. He was most recently co-founder and President at Generate Capital, where he focused on helping entrepreneurs accelerate decarbonization solutions through the use of low-cost infrastructure-as-a-service financing. Prior, Shah served as CEO of the nonprofit Carbon War Room and founded SunEdison, a solar power company.

Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran is The Economist’s Global energy & climate innovation editor. An award-winning senior journalist, he previously served as both US Business Editor and China Business Editor. He also serves as chairman of The Economist Innovation Summit, a provocative series of global conferences on innovation. His latest book, published by Harper Collins, is “Need, Speed and Greed: How the New Rules of Innovation Can Transform Businesses, Propel Nations to Greatness, and Tame the World’s Most Wicked Problems”.