US Ex-Im Bank signs $1 billion agreement to support clean energy exports to India

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Updated – The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) and the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) have signed a $1 billion memorandum of understanding (MOU) aimed at financing the sale of U.S. clean energy exports to India.

Ex-Im Bank Chairman Fred P. Hochberg and IREDA Chairman K.S. Popli signed the deal on Tuesday. Hochberg is visiting India this week to promote U.S.-made exports in support of U.S. jobs.

"The availability of Ex-Im Bank financing could translate into support for skilled jobs in the U.S. renewable energy sector while contributing to the Indian government’s recently-announced goal of providing 24-hour electricity to India’s 1.3 billion citizens by 2019, much of it set to come from renewable sources," Ex-Im Bank said in a statement.

Speaking to pv magazine, Tobias Engelmeier, founder and director of Bridge to India, said the injection would "help greatly, if it makes debt becomes cheaper. This is a huge lever." However, Engelmeier noted, "It will give an enormous push to one single U.S. company: First Solar."

India’s domestic content requirement mandates cells and modules for solar PV projects based on crystalline silicon to be manufactured in India, providing an advantage to foreign thin-film manufacturers like First Solar.

Ex-Im Bank has authorized $353.4 million for U.S. renewable energy exports to India since 2009, and Ex-Im Bank was one of the top financiers of projects under the National Solar Mission Phase 1.

"When quality, reliable U.S. goods and services are brought to bear in high-demand markets like India, the benefits are felt in both of our countries," said Hochberg. "This memorandum of understanding will reinforce the strong ties that America and India already share, create good-paying jobs on both of our shores, and further invigorate America’s clean energy industry while equipping India to meet its own ambitious energy goals."

After signing the agreement, Hochberg travelled to Noida, India, to attend the India-U.S. Technology Summit. Speaking at the event, Hochberg highlighted the renewable energy MOU as evidence of the mutual benefits that can be realized by buying U.S. goods.

India ranks as the second-largest destination for U.S. exports supported by Ex-Im Bank financing, and claims more than $7.2 billion of the Bank’s credit exposure through 2014. Over the last five years, Ex-Im Bank has authorized an average of $1.4 billion per year to finance U.S. exports to India.

The MOU may be a positive step in the resolution of ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and India. Last year the U.S. requested World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement consultations with the Indian government regarding India’s solar photovoltaic domestic content requirements.

In September, the WTO set up a dispute settlement panel to examine the complaint after consultations proved unsuccessful. The panel includes Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Norway, Russia, Turkey, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.