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Why Is the Green New Deal Timely for Green Banks?

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Jennifer Delony's picture
Producer ZeroNetFifty

Jennifer Delony is the producer of ZeroNetFifty.Jennifer is a writer and editor specializing in trade publishing. Most recently, she worked as the associate editor for PennWell's Renewable Energy...

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  • Jan 28, 2019 12:45 pm GMT
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This item is part of the Special Issue - 2019-01 - Predictions & Trends, click here for more

After a decade in the making, a federal green bank could spring out of clean energy legislation that unfolds this year as part of the growing Green New Deal (GND) movement.

The start of 2019 brought new members to Congress who are creating a lot of energy and excitement for the GND. Alex Kragie, director of the newly formed American Green Bank Consortium (AGBC), says the AGBC is certain that a federal green bank would be a “key part of any final package that emerges” under the GND.

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The specifics of what the GND would entail have not been solidified, but the promise is that it would be a sweeping program designed to drive jobs in a clean economy, combat climate change and ensure environmental justice. Kragie says that often, talk in the policy world focuses on setting targets for a clean economy without establishing the means to pay for hitting those targets.

“Green banks are a really important part of that conversation,” he said. “There's simply not enough public money out there to subsidize our way to a clean energy future. We need to find ways to get the bang for the taxpayer buck and stimulate as much private investment as possible.” 

Supporters of the green bank concept say green banks are central to creating that private investment.

Related: Environmental Politics in 2019: Where Does the Green New Deal Stand?

In 2019, the AGBC plans to engage in advocacy at the federal level to build on the momentum for green bank legislation.

The Federal Green Bank Act of 2017 was introduced in June 2017 and didn’t move out of committee, but Kragie said it had 33 sponsors from 17 states.

“You can really see momentum growing behind this issue as folks on the federal level see the impact that is being made on the state and local levels by green banks,” he said. “It's becoming a no-brainer to have green banks in any Green New Deal or other federal conversation.”

Operated under the umbrella of the Coalition for Green Capital, the AGBC officially launched on Jan. 14.

Kragie said that AGBC will work on building value this year for its founding members. They plan to conduct three working groups, which will cover:

  • Achieving self-sustainability
  • Planning for a downturn
  • Challenges and opportunities under the investment tax credit phaseout

According to Kragie, there is significant activity on the state and local levels for upcoming green bank growth.

“They're popping up like mushrooms,” he said.

Nevada, in 2017, launched a state green bank as an independent, nonprofit corporation called the Nevada Clean Energy Fund. Last July, Washington, D.C., Mayor Bowser signed the district’s Green Finance Authority Establishment Act, making D.C. the first city in the country to establish a green bank. In mid-January, Bowser signed the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act, which, among other things, officially funds the DC Green Bank to attract private investment in clean energy.

Kragie also anticipates that Colorado, under newly elected Gov. Jared Polis, will make progress this year on its state green bank, which was announced by former Gov. John Hickenlooper at the end of 2018.

We have exploration projects in a number of different states,” Kragie said. “Our phone is ringing off the hook with people who are really interested in finding out ways to get involved in the green bank movement.”

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 28, 2019

I think Connecticut had one of the first green banks in the U.S. too which has been around for almost a decade. It's a great model that I'm excited to see starting to get more popular

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