Recap: Moving Green Banks Forward at the Inaugural US Green Bank Summit

Many thanks to all who attended the last week’s first US Green Bank Summit!

At the event, Green Bank leaders built connections and shared ideas with one another, as well as with leaders from the fields of investment, philanthropy, business, and more.

Several highlights came from exciting developments at the federal level. With the National Climate Bank Act just introduced in the Senate, bill co-sponsors Senator Chris Van Hollen and Senator Ed Markey spoke to explain more about the bill and set forth their bold vision for the clean energy transition. They were introduced by Coalition for Green Capital CEO Reed Hundt, who has worked with both Senators on the Green Bank concept for more than a decade.

CGC CEO Reed Hundt

Senator Ed Markey

Senator Chris Van Hollen

Following up on the introduction of the bill, CGC Executive Director Jeff Schub discussed the launch of CGC’s comprehensive effort to mobilize stakeholders from across the country in support of the passage of federal Green Bank legislation, and we also heard from Ilmi Granoff at ClimateWorks and Dan Adler of the Energy Foundation as the funders of this new campaign.

We heard from Katherine Hamilton of 38 North Solutions and a representative of the Presidential campaign of Senator Michael Bennet, to discuss the political situation for Green Banks in more detail. Senator Bennet’s support for a federal green bank underscores the broad appeal of this policy framework, framework, and he joins Governor Jay Inslee as the first two candidates (though likely not the last!) to propose a federal Green Bank as a part of the climate policy platform.

Green Bank leaders Mary Templeton, Curtis Probst, Gwen Yamamoto Lau, and CGC Director of Market Development Jill Bunting jumped into a discussion of how Green Banks in the US are finding new and innovative ways of scaling up their impact. In particular, Gwen Yamamoto Lau discussed Hawaii’s innovative new on-bill financing program which is bringing solar to renters and low-income customers, and Mary Templeton highlighted the importance of Michigan Saves’ strong network of local contractors.

Joan Larrea of Convergence Blended Finance moderated a discussion between Green Bank leaders Alfred Griffin, Lynn Heller, and Ken Locklin, offering a deeper look into the innovative new structures for co-investment between the public, private, and philanthropic sectors that have emerged across the US.

In that discussion, she shared an important point about the blended finance model:  not every participant in a project or deal has to be investing with the same purpose. Some may be investing primarily for impact, others for return. Together, they enable the project to move forward.

Alfred Griffin of the New York Green Bank was asked if they ever encounter the perception that the NYGB competes with or “crowds out” private finance. He replied that he had never heard from a financier that they’d been crowded out of a specific project they wanted to be involved in. The purpose of the Green Bank is to enable new projects, and if it is possible for private capital to move a project forward, it’s to everyone’s advantage to let that happen in the market on its own.

Kerry O’Neill of Inclusive Prosperity Capital moderated a discussion between Bryan Garcia, Duanne Andrade, and Bettina Bergoo on how Green Banks across the US can best expand their growing focus on low to moderate income customers. They discussed how the energy burden is greatest on low to moderate households, meaning it makes sense to help these households first. The low to moderate income market also offers significant opportunity in an area where commercial banks are very cautiously moving forward. Panelists noted that there’s a balancing act in terms of the financial sustainability of an organization: it makes sense for an organization to seek out a diverse portfolio of projects, with low-to-moderate income projects being one important component.

Finally, Alex Kragie shared top takeaways from the first Annual Industry Report of the American Green Bank Consortuim. Across the country, Green Banks have mobilized $3.67 billion in investement since 2011, drawing in more than three private dollars for each dollar they have directly invested. Representatives from each Green Bank responded to share some of their top milestones from the past year, including Bryan Garcia who shared the Connecticut Green Bank’s Impact Report for FY ’18.

In the evening, many participants headed over to the Atlantic Council for a panel discussion introducing Green Banks to a wider audience, now available on video. Participants left the events energized for the growth of Green Banks at both the state and federal level, and inspired to collaborate further across this group of trailblazers in the field.

Dan Adler of the Energy Foundation

Ilmi Granoff of ClimateWorks

Panel: Taking Green Banks to Scale

Panel: Blended Finance & New Catalytic Investments

Alex Kragie, Director of the American Green Bank Consortium

Lynn Heller of the Climate Access Fund

“Green Banks: Financing the Low-Carbon Future” at the Atlantic Council

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