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On September 20, 2022, NRDC and the Green Bank Network (GBN) hosted an event during Climate Week focused on the role green banks play in scaling up climate investments. The event also highlighted the potential climate and equity impacts of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund created by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that was recently passed by the US Congress.

The event recording is available here

To kick off the event, Margret Trilli, NRDC trustee and Chief Executive Officer & Chief Investment Officer at ImpactAssets provided framing remarks highlighting: 
  • The new law has the potential to cut US greenhouse gas pollution by 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. This is a major step towards President Biden's pledge to cut climate pollution 50 to 52 percent  from 2005 by 2030. It also begins to position the US to meet its global obligations on climate change. 
  • Green banks are a proven model– both in the United States and around the world – for spurring new private investment in clean energy, efficient buildings, and climate resilient infrastructure and for building new markets for climate solutions.  
  • To date, the members of the Green Bank Network have mobilized over $50 billion USD into green sectors and helped avoid over 48 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually. 
  • The new Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, mandated by the Inflation Reduction Act, can play a critical role in scaling the green bank model to help the US tackle climate change while advancing environmental justice and equity. 

Keynote Remarks

Keynote remarks were provided by US Representative Debbie Dingell and US Senator Ed Markey, two long-time supporters of a US national green bank that can leverage public and private funds to invest in clean energy and infrastructure.  

Rep. Dingell highlighted: 
  • [The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund] is “the single largest investment in clean energy, environmental justice and climate action in American history.” 
  • “Now that we’ve secured the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund in the Inflation Reduction Act, we must move rapidly to invest maximum funding into a national climate bank that will support the equitable transition to a clean energy economy and fund a nationwide network of state and local climate banks.” 

Sen. Markey highlighted: 
  • “The Greenhouse Gas Reduction fund breaks down into seven billion dollars for low emission technology grants and financing; and twenty billion dollars for climate financing, forty percent of which must go to disadvantaged communities that have been locked out of green capital for far too long,” explaining the fund was modeled on the previous National Climate Bank Act. 
  • “A national climate bank can partner with state and local green banks and the private sector to move the United States quickly and cost-effectively towards a zero-emission future” by being responsible for direct lending, co-lending, and credit enhancements that will break down barriers to private investment in new projects that reduce emissions and create jobs that serve low-income, minority, distressed, and rural communities. 

Fireside Chat

The Fireside chat consisted of a discussion between Greg Randolph, the managing director of NY Green Bank (NYGB) and Marcelo Rouco, CEO of Ecosave, a company providing deep energy retrofits, renewable energy generation, and energy storage services. Their discussion highlighted the relationship between green banks and their partner developers, providing a look into how green banks help scale emission-reducing businesses and fill gaps in the market that traditional sources of capital are not able to address. 

When Ecosave struggled to access financing because it was considered too small for big banks and too large for community lenders, NYGB was able to fill this gap with an innovative deal structure that enabled Ecosave to expand its operations. NYGB will be able to replicate the model to help grow other small and medium businesses offering clean energy, renewable energy, and other services. 

GBN Member Panel

The member panel featured Jeffrey Diehl, CEO & Executive Director of Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, Eli Hopson, CEO of DC Green Bank, Bert Hunter, Executive Vice President & CIO of Connecticut Green Bank, and Sarah Davidson, Director of Strategy, Impact, and Investor Relations at NY Green Bank 

The panelists discussed the implications of the possible upcoming influx of capital to local lending institutions made available by the IRA’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction fund. 
  • In NYGB’s view, the deployment of hundreds of billions of dollars into clean energy infrastructure in the U.S will send a strong signal to the market after years of inconsistent climate policy, helping to scale investment activity in clean energy sectors. 
  • For DC Green Bank (DCGB), any incoming funds from the GGRF would represent an opportunity to both supercharge their existing focus and open new sectors for investment. For example, DCGB has been interested in getting into the electric vehicle market but hasn’t had the bandwidth to do so. The additional support for scale from the GGRF could help change this. 

The panelists also discussed projects or initiatives financed by their institutions that have advanced equity, particularly with regard to access to renewable energy and energy efficiency in low- and middle-income communities. Examples include:  
  • Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank (RIIB) provided energy retrofit to a local school in a disadvantaged community, saving the district $150,000 in energy costs every year that the school board could then dedicate to other priorities such as teachers and other school improvements.  Overall, projects implemented by RIIB have saved roughly $140 million dollars in reduced energy costs for small businesses and municipalities across the state. 
  • Connecticut Green Bank developed a working relationship as a lender for Posigen Solar as part of their Solar For All Program to provide solar installation for low-income communities across Connecticut. This transformed Connecticut from a state where most solar energy was benefiting higher-income residents to a state which now has an equal or slightly higher rate of solar energy among low-income communities than medium-high-income communities. 
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