Biden energy loan czar Jigar Shah was a major investor in a struggling green energy company that is in advanced talks to receive a $1.5 billion loan from his office.
The Department of Energy’s loan office, where Shah serves as director, is working to fast-track the funding to Plug Power, a hydrogen fuel company on the brink of bankruptcy. But the ties between Plug Power and Shah could add to concerns from lawmakers about conflicts of interest in the federal loan program.
Securities and Exchange Commission records detail a long-standing financial relationship between Plug Power and Generate Capital, an investment firm that Shah founded before joining the Biden administration in 2021. Shah sold his shares in Generate when he entered the government, according to federal disclosure records.
Under Shah’s leadership, Generate loaned over $100 million to Plug Power—one of the firm’s crowning investments, according to its website.
Plug Power repaid the $100 million to Generate at a 9 percent interest rate last December, while it was in negotiations for the DOE funding with Shah’s office, according to corporate disclosure filings. The repayment was three years ahead of schedule, at a time when the hydrogen fuel company was warning investors about its financial viability.
The financial relationship between Plug Power and Generate could raise new questions for Shah, who is already facing scrutiny from Congress over his links to other companies that have received funding from his office.
In November, Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter to DOE questioning a $3 billion loan to Sunnova, a solar company that shares a board member with a private trade group founded by Shah. The trade group, Cleantech Leaders Roundtable, has also hosted paid events where loan-seeking companies can meet Shah, the Washington Free Beacon reported in October.
"Such an intertwining of personal, political, and professional relationships raises further questions about the impartiality of loan approvals and the susceptibility of the process to undue political influence," wrote Barrasso.
Plug Power described Generate as its "longstanding partner" in a 2020 press release, while Shah was running the investment firm. Generate’s funding for Plug Power "substantially increased Plug’s sales, which significantly reduced the need for the company to raise expensive equity from the stock market," according to Generate Capital’s website.
Shah has continued to promote Plug Power since joining the Biden administration. Last year, he praised Plug Power for "single handedly forcing the world to do green hydrogen," and noted that he "helped invest in [Plug Power] while I was a debt provider."
Plug Power warned that it is on track to run out of money if it can’t secure outside financing. The company has sought to reassure shareholders by touting the potential DOE loan.
Morgan Stanley downgraded Plug Power’s stock late last year, citing "significant risk around PLUG’s business model." The company’s share price dropped steeply in 2023 due to concerns about its financial performance.
Last spring, Plug Power executives told investors that it was in the final stages of negotiations with DOE. Both parties were "equally motivated to get it done [as] fast as we possibly can," said Plug Power chief financial officer Paul Middleton during a shareholder call.
Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh said the company and Shah’s office had finalized a "term sheet, term sheet framework, and we're working through final processes to get this structure approved."
A source with knowledge of the negotiations told the Free Beacon that the DOE Loan Programs Office held meetings on finalizing the loan in December, and is expected to approve it in early 2024.
DOE did not respond to a request for comment. Plug Power did not respond to a request for comment.