CGC’s Federal Activity
U.S. Federal Green Bank Activity
CGC was founded with the initial goal of creating a federal Green Bank. In 2009, CGC supported the introduction of the Green Bank Act of 2009, sponsored by Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen. This concept, of an independent federal entity focused on clean energy deployment financing, was fully embraced by both parties in the House of Representatives. The House Energy & Commerce Committee passed a bill 51-6 to create the Clean Energy Deployment Administration, attaching it as an amendment to the Waxman-Markey Cap & Trade bill. It was the only bi-partisan amendment to Cap & Trade. A companion bill was taken up in the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, and it too was passed with bi-partisan support. However, because Cap & Trade was never taken up by the full Senate, the federal Green Bank, despite support from both parties, fell by the wayside.
CGC then turned its primary focus to state Green Bank development. However, the states served as the laboratory for democracy and inspired congressional leaders to revisit the idea. The Green Bank Act of 2014 was introduced by Representative Chris Van Hollen, with Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut sponsoring a companion bill, with a goal of creating a federal Green Bank. However, in a nod to the leading role taken by states, the federal Green Bank, in addition to directly financing projects, would provide seed capital to state Green Banks. This would remove a major barrier to state Green Bank creation.
The bill was revisited again in 2016, with Rep. Van Hollen and Sen. Murphy sponsoring companion bills. Through this iteration, the federal Green Bank was fully transformed from a direct lending agency into a pass-through entity with the sole purposes of capitalizing regional, state and local Green Banks. Similar to the CDFI Fund at the Treasury, the federal Green Bank’s sole job would be to designate eligible entities as borrowers, and provide loans as seed capital to get those local institutions up and running. In June of 2017, lead sponsors Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced the Green Bank Act of 2017, with co-sponsors from Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Virginia, California, Texas, Oregon, Kentucky, Maryland, and Washington, DC. The bill would create a federal Green Bank for the purpose of funding regional, state, and local Green Banks, and it would be capitalized with $10B initially, and $50B overall.
At the request of the sponsoring legislators, CGC has provided technical assistance to support legislation and has shared information on the latest state and local Green Bank developments from around the country.
Tapping Existing Federal Resources
In addition to working to create a federal Green Bank to fund state and local Green Banks, CGC has worked closely with federal agencies to identify and open up pathways for funding through existing programs. CGC has found that there are enormous untapped resources at the federal level that can be used to fund Green Banks and finance local clean energy investment. CGC maintains on-going dialogue with these agencies to find ways to make those dollars more accessible for quicker deployment, and to find state and local applicants eager to pull down federal funding.
These resources include programs at the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency. CGC has worked closely with the White House and the DOE to open up Loan Program Office funds to Green Banks, allowing funds to be used for portfolios of small projects. CGC has also worked with the Rural Utility Service to identify programs suitable for Green Bank applications and to find structures that support more federal financing for rural and low-income communities. (Vermont has tapped $46 million from one such program.) CGC now regularly advises states on how and where to look for federal funds to help capitalize state their Green Banks.