GOP Seeks Probe of Plug Power’s $1.7 Billion in US Backing

Plug Power Plans Up to Six Hydrogen Facilities
Plug Power system
A Plug Power electrolyzer system. (Plug Power)

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A top Senate Republican is asking a government watchdog to investigate nearly $1.7 billion in financing offered last month to hydrogen company Plug Power Inc., alleging potential conflicts of interest and risks to U.S. taxpayers.

The Biden administration offered Plug Power a conditional commitment for $1.66 billion in loan guarantees to build up to six facilities. Shares of the company, which has said the financing is critical to its growth plans, surged as much as 70% immediately following the announcement, although they have since given up much of those gains.

The request by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the top Republican on the Senate energy committee and a critic of the Energy Department loan program, asks the agency’s inspector general to investigate “any potential impropriety” by the program and its director, Jigar Shah, a veteran clean-tech entrepreneur.

“Given the significant financial implications and the need to maintain public trust, a thorough investigation into the LPO’s conditional commitment to Plug Power is essential to ensure transparency and accountability within the LPO,” Barrasso wrote in the letter to Energy Department Inspector General Teri Donaldson made public June 5.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)


Among the concerns Barrasso laid out is that clean energy financing firm Generate Capital, of which Shah was president at the time, provided a $100 million loan to Plug Power in 2019, which it repaid in December 2022 without early termination fees as it was pursuing an Energy Department loan guarantee.

Barrasso said he was concerned about the relationship between Shah and a Plug Power lobbyist who allegedly has described himself as Shah’s “longtime friend.” Barrasso also raised concerns about Plug Power’s financial viability after the company lost more than $1.3 billion in 2023. The company, based in Latham, N.Y., sells hydrogen-powered fuel cells and is building a series of plants to produce the fuel.

The Energy Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The letter comes as Republicans have set their sights on the Energy Department’s loan program, vowing to find a Solyndra-like failure in an election year. President Joe Biden’s signature climate law gave the program hundreds of billions of dollars in new loan authority.

Shares of Sunnova Energy International plunged 16% in December after Barrasso requested documents related to a $3 billion partial loan guarantee awarded to the Texas-based company for its efforts to expand rooftop solar to moderate- and lower-income customers in Puerto Rico and elsewhere. Sunnova rejected any allegations of wrongdoing, and shares of the company’s stock price recovered their losses within days.