Green Banks, a Safe Bet

By Lisa Pellegrino & Wesley Holmes

April 22, 2015Green Pig

As energy efficiency is coming to be recognized as a veritable cash cow of energy savings, making the case for energy efficiency as a sound and lucrative investment is becoming easier to do. Enter the “Green Bank�. Bryan Garcia is the President and CEO of the Connecticut Green Bank, the nation’s first financial institution solely devoted to leveraging public and private funds to accelerate the growth of green energy in Connecticut. Bryan recently spoke to the region’s leading clean energy advocates, policy makers and industry leaders at the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) Policy Breakfast. Held April 15th at McKenney’s, a LEED certified mechanical engineering firm headquartered in Atlanta, Bryan shared his experience starting a green bank and discussed the impact these new clean energy focused finance institutions could have on southeastern states.

Leading what is widely considered the  preeminent innovative financing institution in the country, Bryan spoke with pride about  the successes they have had at scaling up clean energy deployment in Connecticut. With $120 million in assets, the Green Bank offers incentives and low-cost financing to homeowners, companies, municipalities, and other institutions to support renewable energy and energy efficiency. One of the keys to the success of the Connecticut Green Bank is that they are able to deliver, as Bryan puts it, “public projects at the pace of private enterprise.�

Mr. Garcia explained that at the heart of their business model is a goal to lower the reliance on public dollars and increase private investment, encouraging investors to “get off the sidelines�. Utilizing a suite of financial products and mechanisms, the Connecticut Green Bank is shifting away from the old model of relying on subsidies to bring down the cost of green energy systems, and instead partnering with private lenders to create new and robust financing products such as the Smart-E Loan and the Connecticut Solar Lease, and establishingcommercial PACE programs in cities such as Bridgeport and Hartford. Their strategy appears to be working, generating $10 of private investment for every $1 of public funds.

Since Connecticut blazed the trail in 2011, New York, New Jersey and Kentucky have followed suit with several other states across the country taking steps to establish a green bank of their own. As consumers appetite for renewable energy and energy efficient products continues to grow, the need for effective and accessible financing products is growing along with it. Bryan Garcia and the Connecticut Green Bank are putting their money on Connecticut’s consumers and betting that increasingly private lenders will soon follow and start offering more dedicated clean energy finance products. With the Smart-E Loan and similar products nationwide showing an average default rate of 1% or less, we would call that a pretty safe bet.