By: Meghan Boland, Esq.
Green Banks and Green Bonds are both institutions that are designed to attract and distribute capital for clean energy projects. The agreement reached at the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December will require trillions of dollars a vast network of institutions around the world, and efficient means for drawing in capital for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
On June 27, Secretary Clinton released her “Initiative on Technology and Innovation,” which covered a variety of broad topics, including the establishment of a $25 billion national “Infrastructure Bank.” Although the June 27th release focused on using the Bank to promote increased internet access, Clinton has previously described the Bank as a source of funding for projects of “regional and national significance” with an emphasis on “projects to modernize our energy, water, broadband, and transportation systems in urban and rural communities.” Clinton has previously voiced strong support for Green Banks and her desire to model her Infrastructure Bank on existing state banks.
In creating a national Green Bank, the U.S. would join other advanced economies, such as the U.K., Australia, and Japan where, the national government funded a new lending institution with public capital, which then invests in clean energy projects in partnership with the private sector. Clinton estimates that the activities of the $25 billion bank would create an additional $225 billion in private investment – an estimate in line with what existing state and national Green Banks currently achieve. A new national Infrastructure Bank would finally bring these proven and powerful financing techniques to the federal level.
States as a Model
In 2012, Connecticut created the first Green Bank in the U.S. by combining several state agencies and leveraging a small amount of public funds to generate private-sector investment. Connecticut’s Property Assessed Clean Energy program, which allows commercial customers finance clean energy upgrades to their buildings through their property tax bill, has played a major role in the success of Connecticut’s bank. Additionally, Connecticut has been able to create an innovative financing solution that is expected to dramatically expand the market for solar projects on commercial properties.
New York’s Green Bank became operational in 2015. It invites businesses to submit proposed clean energy investments. The Green Bank will provide financing support for selected projects that meet the state’s clean energy goals but can’t be completed with private investment alone. This allowed the New York to expand the clean energy market while boosting private sector investment. 
Hawaii has established a $150-million Green Bank called GEMS, and will focus on making solar power more accessible to renters and homeowners with low credit scores. Hawaii has the highest electricity prices in the country. An in-state Green Bank will both finance solar projects and allow qualifying homeowners to significantly reduce their power costs. 
California’s Green Bank helps existing government sponsored programs invest more by attracting private capital. In addition, the proposed California Green Bank has its own money to invest in ways similar to the New York Green Bank. The bank invests in bonds that finance green projects throughout the world and operates two authorities that finance and administer programs and projects that promote green jobs and industries within California and encourages conservation of natural resources and alternative energy.
Though not technically a Green Bank, the New Jersey Energy Resilience Bank was established to strengthen the resilience of New Jersey by offering financially feasible distributed energy and to strengthen the state’s electricity grid during extreme weather events. Financing through the Bank is used to develop or enhance distributed energy resource (“DER”) technologies at critical facilities that were directly or indirectly impacted extreme weather disasters. The bank was created utilizing $200 million of Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (“CDBG-DR”) funds allocated to New Jersey by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”).
Momentum for Banks
The Green Bank movement is at critical juncture. In less than five years, Green Banks have animated over $10 billion in clean energy investment. They are becoming increasingly viewed as a critical to driving public and private clean energy investment and meeting goals for clean energy deployment. If existing Green Banks continue to thrive, they will likely play a critical role in moving towards a low-carbon, or even carbon-free world.
 “A National Green Bank on 2017,” Coalition for Green Capitol (June 13, 2016), [hereinafter, “CGC”] http://www.cgctalk.com/2016/06/ the-successful-state-level-green-banks.html.
“Initiative on Technology & Innovation,” Hillary for America (June 27, 2016), https://www.hillaryclinton.com/ briefing/factsheets/2016/06/27/hillary-clintons-initiative-on-technology-innovation/.
 CGC supra note 1.
 Copithorne, Brad “The Spread of Green Banking Paves the Way for Clean Energy Investments,” Environmental Defense Fund (May 13, 2014) https://www.edf.org/blog/2014/05/13/spread-green-banking-paves-way-clean- energy-investments.
 “GEMS Financing Program,” Hawaii Green Infrastructure Authority (2016) http://gems.hawaii.gov/learn-more/.
 “California’s Green Bank” California State Treasury (2016) http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/greenbank/.
 “Energy Resilience Bank” New Jersey Economic Development Authority (April 27, 2016) http://www.njeda.com/erb /erb-(1).
 Copithorne, supra note 7.