But Newell and others said applications have continued to get bogged down, and they blame the complex process in which Energy officials submit applications to the Office of Management and Budget for secondary review. Scott Sklar, president of the renewable energy marketing and policy firm The Stella Group, said the mysterious and slow process used to evaluate applications for the government loan guarantees has led to a slow erosion of industry confidence in the administration's commitment.. Sklar said the government agencies that handle the review – the Energy and Treasury department and the Office of Management and Budget -- "meet secretly, have no interactive dialogue with the folks having the problem, and make arbitrary rulings or decisions."
Officials at OMB, who agreed to speak at length with ABC News about the program under the condition they not be identified by name, said they are not trying to undermine the program. At the same time, they said, they do not want to approve multi-million dollar loan guarantees for high risk projects using unproven technology without first conducting a thorough review.
"We are talking about really big projects that are very complicated, in some cases dealing with novel or untested technology," one OMB official said. "It takes a lot of time to do the due diligence in order to adequately protect the taxpayers interest."
Tyson Slocum, director of the Energy Program at the advocacy group Public Citizen, defended OMB. "OMB has been holding things up to contain risks to taxpayers," he said, pointing out that the agency "could not just allocate billions and billions of dollars" without ensuring that the money was a good investment.
But the memo sent to the president last week appears to acknowledge that OMB is slowing down the process. Among the solutions offered to the president is a move to "limit OMB and Treasury Oversight." Another option is to "streamline and accelerate OMB/Treasury reviews."
The Sierra Club's Hamilton said he believes the program could work. "I don't fault OMB for making sure it's not giving out risky loans, but I do fault the lack of priority for getting the issues resolved," he said.
Almost two years after the program was created, Hamilton said it remains an open question whether wants the program to work. With control of the House about to shift and many clean energy provisions about to expire, he said, time may be running out.