February 3, 2021

By Lily Bohlke, Public News Service – ME

As Maine considers how to fund its statewide Climate Action Plan, advocates are proffering so-called “green banks” as a possible solution.

A green bank is a public or nonprofit entity that uses public funding to leverage private investments into clean energy and other climate solutions.

David Gibson, solar design specialist with Revision Energy and an executive committee member of the Sierra Club’s Maine Chapter, said green banks create a revolving door of funding, by providing loans to draw in additional private capital, and then reusing the money once the loans are paid back.

He explained there’s a focus on working with low- to moderate-income households that may not have the funds on hand or credit scores to pay outright for projects such as renewable energy in the home.

“And so trying to offer credit enhancements or other means to help those customers be able to participate in the energy-efficiency and clean-energy marketplace,” Gibson clarified.

Gibson pointed to the Connecticut Green Bank, formed in 2011, which has used $270 million in public funding over the last decade to finance $2 billion worth of climate-solution projects.

He hopes the Biden administration and new Congress will take on the National Climate Bank Act, which would provide federal funding for state-level green banks.

Gibson noted new funding streams will be necessary to enact the state’s Climate Action Plan, announced at the end of last year, and green banks could help.

Plus, he added more funding for clean energy leads to more job creation. Workers will be needed in communities across Maine for air-sealing and insulating homes, installing heat pumps and other renewable-energy sources, and more.

“There’s going to be a need for thousands of new workers in the clean-energy field, to transition Maine away from fossil fuels and into local clean energy,” Gibson contended.

Gibson hopes to see more green banks crop up across the country.

He emphasized they’re gaining traction among the environmental community as well as businesses and nonprofits interested in mitigating the impacts of climate change.