What is this NY Green Bank?

Posted on May 21, 2014 by Eileen Millett

With a heap of fanfare, in mid-February, New York’s Governor Cuomo announced that the NY Green Bank is open for business.  Cuomo began ramping up his clean energy policy last summer, with the appointment of Richard Kauffman, as New York’s chairman of energy and finance, and Chair of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).  Kauffman was the former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s senior advisor on clean energy finance.  NY’s energy and finance chair is making it clear that government subsidies alone have not been successful in creating a robust clean energy marketplace.  Kauffman believes that government could encourage the development of private sector capital markets by helping to foster a demand for a low carbon economy.  The creation of new Green Banks could lead to permanent, steady and reliable financing for clean energy efficiency projects, and create clean-energy jobs along the way.  It’s a win- win for everyone, ensuring a low carbon future and building long-term economic prosperity.  New York is not alone, the United Kingdom has a national Green Investment Bank, and in the U.S., Connecticut, Vermont and Hawaii, have Green banks.  New York expects that NY Green Bank will advance the state’s clean energy objectives. 

Established in June 2011, Connecticut’s Clean Energy Investment Authority was the first state green bank, the first of its kind in the country.  On the federal level, the Green Bank Act of 2014 was first introduced in April, in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, and Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut introduced a companion bill in the Senate, as well.  In 2009 a bill passed the House, but not the Senate.  The Green Bank Act of 2014 would establish a Federal Green Bank with a maximum capitalization of $50 billion from Green Bonds and the authority to co-fund the creation of state-level Green Banks with a low-interest loan of up to $500 million. The legislation provides for the Green Bank to be supported with $10 billion in “Green Bonds” issued by the Treasury; it will have a 20 year charter and will be able to acquire another $40 billion from Green Bonds.  Passing the Green Bank Act of 2014 would give all states the option to receive funds from the federal government to assist with financing on a local level and to encourage the movement to a clean energy future.  This appears to be yet another arena where the states will take the lead and eventually the federal government will follow.

NY Green Bank is a state sponsored investment funding institution created to attract private funds for the financing of clean energy projects.  Mainly, it is a public-private financing institution having the authority to raise capital through various means ― including issuing bonds, selling equity, legislative appropriations, and dedicating utility regulatory funds ― for the purpose of supporting clean energy and energy efficiency projects.  NY Green Bank got started with an initial capitalization of $218.5 million, financed with $165.6 million of uncommitted funds raised through clean energy surcharges on the State’s investor owned utility customers, or idle clean energy ratepayer funds, combined with $52.9 million in auction proceeds from emission allowances sales from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The $218. 5 is meant to be a first step in capitalizing the $1 billion NY Green Bank initiative announced by the governor in his 2013 State of the State address.  

NY Green Bank is a division of the NYSERDA, a public benefit corporation aimed at helping New York State meet its energy goals: reducing energy consumption, promoting the use of renewable energy sources, and protecting the environment.  Globally, we have seen natural gas and renewables gaining ground at the expense of crude oil and coal.  

On April 10, I had the pleasure of hearing Alfred Griffin, the President of the Green Bank, and Greg Hale, Senior Advisor to the Chairman of Energy and Finance Office of the Governor of NY, speak at a roundtable sponsored by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).  They explained that NY Green Bank was created in December 2013, when a Public Service Commission (PSC) order, provided for its initial capitalization.  The order was issued in response to a petition filed by NYSERDA seeking clean energy funds.  Griffin and Hale see the $1 billion dollar investment fund as breaking down barriers for projects that are currently neglected.  NY Green Bank, however, is not there to provide operating capital, it is there for project capital.  They are seeking credit worthy projects and looking to promote standardization.  These types of clean energy projects will be a bridge to private markets, eventually not requiring any public subsidy, and ultimately becoming sustainable.   NY Green Bank will need impactful deals to demonstrate market success.  In the clean tech space, investors are setting investment targets for private equity activity.  Residential rooftops are among the type of projects being considered.  The bank, for example, would work with a private partner to seed investment in a solar power company for solar panel construction at a specific site.   The money would be directed for the panels not salaries or operating expenses.  Given the global makeup of energy consumption, energy investors here and abroad are looking to leverage growth opportunities to decide where to invest growing dollars to take advantage of shifts in the energy market.  New York state, although, not first, is situated right where it should be. 



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