According to reports, Shah founded the Cleantech Leaders Roundtable, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit and a community of cleantech and climate-tech leaders. The private association has reportedly seen a surge in revenue since Shah took over the powerful $400 billion LPO in 2021.
Moreover, the group, which didn't have a website until three years ago, reportedly now regularly hosts sold-out receptions featuring the energy loan official for its paying members across the country. In fact, LPO and Cleantech co-hosted an invitation-only conference in Washington D.C. dubbed as "Demonstrate Deploy Decarbonize 2023" back in September for companies looking for loans.
A DOE spokeswoman said that the coalition "invited the DOE's LPO to cohost "Deploy 23" but called it a "nonfinancial partnership and not a government-led event." The DOE said Cleantech Leaders was in charge of the guest list and handled the ticket sales. It also coordinated with sponsors for the event but the official declined to reveal the ticket costs and claimed that the conference was made possible only "through ticket sales and event sponsorships."
The Washington Free Beacon reported that companies connected to the trade association have raked in cash from Shah's office. At the same time, LPO reportedly approved a $3 billion loan to a solar company led by Cleantech Leaders's board director. The group's corporate sponsors have also pulled in funding.
"It appears as if the Department of Energy has allowed a dark money climate group to be the gatekeepers of taxpayer dollars," said Caitlin Sutherland, director of the ethics watchdog Americans for Public Trust. "Friends, coworkers and corporate allies should not be given preferential financial treatment when seeking access to government programs."
It is no longer surprising that the cozy relationship between Shah and Cleantech is now being questioned by critics about whether the organization's members are getting favorable treatment in the loan process. Several of the conference’s financial sponsors received or are allegedly seeking major loans from LPO. KorePower secured an $850 million conditional commitment from the LPO in June, and Novonix recently said it is in advanced talks for financing from the office.
Shah founded Cleantech Leaders Roundtable in 2017 as a networking hub for executives and served as president until the Biden administration appointed him to lead the LPO in early 2021. He recruited climate activist Andrea Luecke to serve as the group's first full-time executive director when he left.
Even after leaving Cleantech, Shah kept his tight relationship with the group as he was always featured as a guest speaker for more than a dozen closed-door events and receptions. Most of the said gatherings charge a hefty fee of up to $250 per head.
The trade association also observed soaring revenue after he left. Their profit more than tripled in the year he left as per tax disclosure records. For an annual membership fee of up to $7,500 a year for corporate executives, the group offers members "insider access to an exclusive private community of high-level cleantech/climatech peers."
Furthermore, a former DOE official told the Free Beacon that Shah’s regular participation in Cleantech’s events seemed "excessive" now that he is a government official. "That could lead someone to believe that this group is the way to get in front of Shah, to get in front of a senior official who oversees billions of dollars in government investments," said the former official.
Meanwhile, under Shah’s leadership, the LPO has become a powerhouse within Biden’s energy department. The office, which was best known for a 2011 scandal involving a $500 million loan to the failed green energy company Solyndra, operated on a small budget for years. He then expanded the staff, and the office now controls a $400 billion loan budget authorized by the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, a fact that has been advertised by Cleantech Leaders. (Related: Member of Biden's "green team" admits EVs are NOT sustainable.)