WEBINAR: How DOE’s Loan Programs Office is Driving American Competitiveness

Executive Director of SAFE’s Center for Critical Minerals Strategy Abigail Hunter moderated a webinar panel Tuesday between Director of the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) Jigar Shah, President and CEO of Lithium America Jonathan Evans, and Vice President of Operations for Ultium Cells Thomas Gallagher about the critical role LPO plays in driving U.S. competitiveness and reindustrialization.

Watch the full webinar here:

Tuesday’s conversation hit on pressing issues facing the U.S. economy and the unique role LPO—in partnership with companies like Ultium and Lithium Americas—plays in onshoring critical minerals and energy supply chains, rebuilding America’s industrial base, bolstering the U.S. workforce, and creating more secure, reliable access to the building blocks of the energy transition.

  • When the LPO makes loans, the private sector takes notice. Both Lithium Americas and Ultium Cells found that LPO’s support not only provided foundational financing, but also signaled to the private sector that they were companies worth looking at. This is largely due to LPO’s reputation for a rigorous due diligence process that ensures the Office a reasonable expectation of repayment. LPO’s loans provide a financial foundation for companies to build on.
  • Companies working with the LPO are investing in a domestic workforce. The LPO application process includes a Community Benefits Plan, detailing how companies will prioritize community and labor engagement, as well as promote quality jobs. Ultium Cells and Lithium Americas and other LPO projects have made significant investments in workforce development, local hiring, and skills training in the communities they operate, investing in housing infrastructure and partnering with schools and vocational programs.
  • Onshoring these supply chains brings other critical benefits. In addition to the workforce development benefits of onshoring these industries, it also means more stable and reliable access to the materials necessary to build batteries and other components of the energy transition.
  • The LPO is “private sector led, government enabled.” This gives the Office unique insight into where the private enthusiasm for investment is, which helps inform its decisions. Shah noted this must be a two-way conversation between the public and private sectors.
  • Onshoring these key industries requires an all-of-government approach. The LPO is a key bridge to the private sector, but the right policy signals and sustained support are necessary to both drive demand and make it economically feasible for these businesses to thrive here. The panelists pointed to the importance of provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act aimed at these outcomes.

The U.S. has a tremendous number of innovators and entrepreneurs, but the challenge is with making sure the money is there to ensure these projects get off the ground while being able to produce minerals and batteries cost effectively, train the workforce necessary to do high quality work at scale, and that the communities embrace these new industries. LPO’s partnerships continue to show how public-private partnerships done effectively can unlock America’s industrial genius.