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Darrell Issa Vs. First Solar: Can Politics Sink the Stock?

Stocks in this article: FSLR

The original rule-making language regarding the loan guarantees was very clear on one point, though: The use of technology overseas did not bar it from being defined as "innovative" when applied to a U.S. project. Issa has to admit this at the end of his Agua Caliente project attack.

"While according to the rule, foreign commercial use of a technology is not a bar to deeming domestic use innovative, the broad commercial use in Europe reflects the disrespect DOE applies to the actual innovativeness requirement."

Sources in Washington familiar with the loan program also note that the "innovative" clause was voluntarily added by the Department of Energy to the rulemaking process for the loan guarantee program, as opposed to being in the original language of the Energy Policy or stimulus acts. This does not suggest that the DOE was trying to "sneak" anything past Congress.

In the end, all Issa has when it comes to Agua Caliente is a charge of "disrespect."

In short, accuse, damn, accuse, damn some more, add a major "however" that shows you don't really have a legal leg to stand on, and then damn again before moving on.

  • Political issue No. 3: Issa concludes "The First Solar Scheme" with a laundry list of First Solar problems, none of which have anything to do with the narrow issue of the DOE loan review process.
  • The House report says that since the DOE loans were approved First Solar has encountered serious financial problems that put the DOE funded projects in jeopardy. It mentions the huge slide in shares of First Solar in 2011, the scaling back of its panel production, the firing of its CEO, and an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into violations of Regulation FD.

    The House report contends that a decision by First Solar to not go ahead with plans for a Mesa, Arizona-based plant to supply large-scale projects suggests that the projects will never create the jobs promised. While First Solar may have dangled the carrot of manufacturing jobs before the DOE, the fact of the matter is that the loan guarantee was not for a manufacturing plant, and there was no Congressional quota on how many jobs need to be created by a project.

    The House report also notes the problems that First Solar panels have experienced in high heat conditions, recently revealed by the company, and which raise concerns about whether the panels will work in the long-term. It's a legitimate issue for First Solar and its project partners, but all of this has little bearing on the only issue with which House Oversight can make a determination: Did the DOE properly review and grant loan guarantees?

    Someone on the House Oversight staff evidently spent a lot of time reading the solar trade press, but none of it will result in the committee being able to keep this issue alive unless it can prove that the First Solar Antelope Valley project loan guarantee broke the letter of the law.

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