On September 26, 2022, the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center hosted a virtual event with William Barber III, Director of Climate and Environmental Justice at the Climate Reality Project; Bryan Garcia, President and CEO of the Connecticut Green Bank; Reed Hundt, Founder and CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital; and Cathie Mahon, President and CEO of Inclusiv. The event was moderated by Ken Berlin, Senior Fellow and Director of the Financing and Achieving Cost Competitive Climate Solutions Project at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center. Keynote remarks were provided by Chris Van Hollen, US Senator representing the State of Maryland.

During this discussion, panelists highlighted the opportunities for the Biden Administration to successfully build a national green bank and unlock investments to support an equitable and just clean future through the authorization of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction Fund in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Panelists discussed the impact that national green banks will have in low-income communities and the ways in which private institutions can provide funding to localized green banks and Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs).

Berlin opened the discussion with a broad overview of national green banks and their role within the global energy transition, particularly in catalyzing clean energy projects in low- and middle-income (LMI) communities and developing countries.

Citing the recent IRA legislation, Senator Van Hollen outlined the development of a national green bank in the US, and how the funds could be allocated to generate millions of jobs, boost US economy, and sharpen the country’s competitive edge. Senator Van Hollen emphasized the impact that a national green bank will have in unlocking investments for traditionally disadvantaged communities to benefit from the energy transition and support the environmental justice movement. Hundt elaborated on Senator Van Hollen’s statements, detailing the ways that green banks can engage with non-profits and other institutions, as well as how the GHG Reduction Find’s initial $27 billion can leverage more investment toward the clean power platform in LMI communities.

Pivoting to state and localized green banks, Garcia illustrated the Connecticut Green Bank’s role as a bridge between the public and private sectors by communicating investment opportunities created by state legislative measures. Garcia then provided examples of the Connecticut Green Bank’s success in incentivizing LMI communities to invest in solar PV and their implementation of various loan programs.

Barber provided insights into specific ways that green banks benefit LMI communities and communities of color, both through direct financial measures and re-evaluating cultural assumptions. Green banks provide cheap financing to LMI communities for clean energy projects through providing low-interest loans and directly underwriting and bundling loans, reducing energy prices in the long term. These financial measures showcase that LMI communities that have previously been deemed too risky for investment are reliable borrowers for clean energy loans.

The conversation then moved toward how credit unions and CDFIs can collaborate with green banks to build opportunities in greening the economy and addressing economic inequities. Mahon detailed the training process for community development lenders and the ways that CDFIs can support investment in clean businesses. Mahon also provided insights into future opportunities for capital investment in on-the-ground institutions.

In closing, the conversation focused on ways that green banks can work directly with LMI communities to ensure that environmental justice issues are being adequately addressed, and evaluated risks associated with private banks. Barber elaborated on the ways that green banks can scale up equitable clean energy programs, build green awareness campaigns in these communities, and promote diverse representation in the clean energy transition. The panelists closed by discussing the responsibility that commercial banks have in driving the flow of green capital and investing in projects that may not otherwise have enough funding.

Berlin concluded by recognizing the massive undertaking that is creating a national green bank and the importance of building public support for programs like these.

Elina Carpen is a Fall 2022 Young Global Professional at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center.

Keynote remarks by

Senator Chris van Hollen
US Senator

A conversation with

Will Barber III
Director of Climate and Environmental Justice
The Climate Reality Project;
Chief Consultant of Environmental Justice and Equity
Coalition for Green Capital

Bryan Garcia
President & CEO
Connecticut Green Bank

Reed Hundt
Founder & CEO
Coalition for Green Capital

Cathie Mahon
President & CEO

Moderated by

Ken Berlin
Senior Fellow, Global Energy Center
Atlantic Council

The Global Energy Center develops and promotes pragmatic and nonpartisan policy solutions designed to advance global energy security, enhance economic opportunity, and accelerate pathways to net-zero emissions.