The World Green Building Council claims the planet needs to engineer a net zero carbon building stock by 2050 to keep the global temperature increase below 2°C. Scientists believe doing so will prevent the most serious consequences of climate change such as disruption of the world’s food supply and flooding of coastal areas. If the world manages to make all new construction net zero by 2030 and older structures retrofit compliant by 2050, will it be enough to help the planet self-correct? Is keeping the temperature increase below 2°C even feasible? Many experts say, ‘yes, if we act now and take net zero goals seriously,’ while others label the possibility fantasy. Regardless, the less we do to turn the tide, the more critical future consequences become and the longer we postpone realizing the additional benefits of clean energy practices. Further advantages of sustainable building stock include promoting a green economy that results in job creation, energy conservation, greater indoor comfort and health, and lower energy bills. So, no matter what floats a person’s boat on these rising seas–hope for future generations, money, job growth, better health, the thrill of new technology—everyone has a reason to participate in clean, green energy. What stops them? The same thing that stops us from doing many things we want to do: money-and knowledge. And it’s crunch time, folks. You know that scene in Indiana Jones where the hero escapes under a closing door in the nick of time–and then he manages to grab his hat in the last half second? That’s where we are in the emissions-reduction game. So how can people secure the means to initiate green projects? Green banks can ease the upfront investment, help educate the masses, and power boost the green economy toward the finish line–toward minimizing the effects of emissions on our planet’s future.
What is a Green Bank? Green Banks are state-chartered, public finance authorities designed to ramp up the clean energy market quickly to make the most of public funding while gaining private investors and willing consumers for energy-reduction projects. Green banks attract private investors by lowering investment risk on such projects through various financing techniques. They make use of public loans rather than grants. That way, public funds are recycled into project after project. The public-private partnership model enables upfront financial assistance for consumers seeking to implement such projects. Loan repayments are deferred for years while the consumer reaps the benefits of sustainable building systems, which likely will include lower energy bills.
Financing Techniques: Green banks channel public and private funds using credit enhancements such as loan guarantees and loan loss reserves to lessen the risk to investors. They may co-invest to bridge gaps in financing to close a deal. Broader groups of investors can be attracted through securitization of individual energy project loans, meaning loans can be bundled into portfolios and sold off as shares that diffuse risk. Green Banks can also implement financing structures where loans are repaid through utility bills (On-Bill Repayment) or attached to property taxes (Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing). Public funding can come from multiple sources such as a variety of bonds, revenue from carbon pricing policies (i.e., carbon taxes), foundations, pension funds, reallocation of underused investments, and federal programs.
Spreading the Word: One of the largest barriers to a global sustainable building stock is access to information. Often times, potential consumers do not understand the value of green building practices or the process of going about retrofits and securing the funds to do so. Green Banks act as think tanks full of resources relevant to a clean energy market. They can behave as a consumer’s ‘point person’ by working with industry partners to come up with ‘turn-key’ solutions for navigating projects. The Coalition for Green Capital (CFGC) claims, “A Green Bank can facilitate whole-home upgrades by coordinating with multiple contractors, performing cross-technology energy analysis and review, and offering a single integrated financing solution.”
Catching On: The first Green Bank in the United States was founded in Connecticut in 2011. After only five years of operation, the Connecticut Green Bank has generated $1 billion in total clean energy investment. It also runs the most successful commercial PACE program in the country. Green Banks have gained bipartisan support and exist in New York, California, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Hawaii. A global endeavor, the entities are also found in the United Kingdom, Australia, Malaysia, and Japan.
Can’t Stop This Train: In the interest of seeing Green Banks flourish, the Green Bank Act of 2017 was introduced to Congress on June 22, 2017. According to the CFGC, the bill “creates a United States Green Bank that will support the creation of a 21st-century American energy infrastructure by providing a comprehensive range of financing … on a competitive basis to local Green Banks. The United States Green Bank would have an initial capitalization of $10 billion, and a maximum capitalization of $50 billion.” The bank would allocate funding to qualified institutions, but project selection and management would remain with local Green Banks.
With so many passionate professionals in the clean energy industry, nothing is going to stop progress toward a sustainable infrastructure. The question is, how fast can we get this train moving? For more information on Green Banks and the hope they provide for the future, visit the Coalition for Green Capital and the Green Bank Network.
Haglid Engineering & Associates believes in facilitating the financing of new construction and retrofit efforts wherever possible. Green Banks and PACE financing are key to pushing the clean energy economy forward and emissions–as well as the global temperature increase–way down. Our team of engineers and architects has the know-how for creating net zero buildings and homes, as well as the guidance to help you take advantage of incentives for ease of financing your energy-reduction projects. Our manufacturing arm (BPE, Inc.) even produces ventilation equipment that can work wonders on supplementing and even taking the place of your HVAC system. Curious? Give us a call at 888.989.8539. Together, we can save you money on energy bills, provide you with a healthier and more comfortable indoor environment, and help save the planet. And yes, it’s all as cool as it sounds.