Connecticut Green Bank aims to promote cleaner, cheaper and more reliable energy
NEW HAVEN >> Connecticut, on average, is responsible for approximately 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere every year, according to Bryan Garcia, president and chief executive officer of the Connecticut Green Bank.
In the last five years, the Connecticut Green Bank has worked to save about 200,000 metric tons per year from being emitted, or a total of about 2.6 million metric tons for five years, Garcia said.
“It’s a lot, but it’s not where it needs to be,” he said.
The state has goals to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent from the 2001 greenhouse gas emissions levels by 2050 and the Green Bank, created in 2011, is one way the state hopes to work toward that goal.
Ultimately, Garcia said, he hopes the Green Bank can be a model for other states that are not as far along in climate change action plans as Connecticut, because that’s when real change will happen.
Garcia and Craig Connolly, the Green Bank marketing director, met with the Register editorial board Wednesday to discuss successes of the five-year-old program and pledge their continued support for green energy initiatives despite signs from Washington, D.C., that climate change initiatives will likely not be a high priority.
“Connecticut is moving aggressively regardless of what’s happening around the country,” Garcia said. “We can be an example.”
The Connecticut Green Bank mission is to reduce public spending on efficiency projects by developing private investment. The end result is providing clean energy at a lower cost for consumers, Garcia said.
This has been done through Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE, which has been adopted by 139 of the 169 municipalities in the state. C-PACE creates a system through which loans for energy efficiency and clean energy improvements are paid back through property taxes, and transferred to the next owner of the property if sold.
In its short history the Connecticut Green Bank has helped mobilize approximately $1 billion in green energy investments, only $160 million of which came from taxpayers, the rest from private investors, Garcia said. That has resulted in creating approximately 13,000 jobs, he added.
This model, the first of its kind in the nation, is more effective than government subsidies, Garcia said, and also is more sustainable, particularly given current state budget woes.
“We can mitigate climate change, but also yield significant economic benefits” to consumers, Connolly said. “Maybe the drive isn’t as much to mitigate climate change, but for your own self interest, but the outcome is the same.”
Economic incentives are a large driver for people to go green, Garcia said, and different loan programs started by the bank help make that even easier for businesses and homeowners. In recent years, the Green Bank has worked to ensure that low- to moderate-income households can more readily afford making homes more efficient, saving money in the long term while simultaneously making low loan payments for solar panels and other energy efficient items, Garcia said.
“More people want to do clean energy, not only because it’s better for the environment, but it’s better for the bottom line,” Garcia said. “It’s not uncommon to drive down the street and see (solar panels) that were just installed in your neighborhood.”
With an eye toward the future, both Garcia and Connolly said they hope the Green Bank can be a model for other states, especially those with less aggressive takes on climate change.
“We could be zero-emitting, but what would that do in the grand scheme of things?” Garcia said.