CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (December 14, 2016)—Maine could greatly increase private-sector investment in clean energy, while spurring job creation and economic growth, by creating a “green bank,” according to a study released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), in coordination with the Northeast Solar Energy Market Coalition (NESEMC).
Green banks are public or quasi-public finance authorities that use limited public dollars to leverage greater private investment in clean energy through innovative financing techniques and market development tools. The analysis shows how the state could expand clean energy financing programs to make additional low-interest loans available to homeowners, businesses and municipalities who want to make energy efficiency improvements, install solar panels, or invest in other types of clean energy projects. Establishing the program with an initial $14 million public investment would leverage $300 million in private sector investments over 15 years, according to the study.
“Increasing clean energy investments in Maine would help reduce the state’s reliance on imported natural gas for electricity generation,” said Steve Clemmer, energy research director at UCS and lead author of the analysis. “Creating a green bank in Maine is one way for the state to continue its transition to a clean energy economy, while creating local jobs, lowering energy costs and ensuring consumers earn a sizeable return on their initial investment.
“Nationally, Maine is lagging behind on solar energy development and jobs,” added Clemmer. “A green bank could help the state catch up, as new businesses manufacture and sell clean energy technologies, existing businesses expand, and people are put to work installing and maintaining projects.”
UCS analyzed the potential outcome of creating a green bank in Maine, based on the experiences of existing green banks and clean energy lending programs in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and elsewhere. According to the analysis, a green bank in Maine could:
- Drive $300 million in clean energy investments over the next 15 years, if supplied with $14 million in initial capital;
- Support the deployment of more than 70 megawatts of new solar, and community wind power projects, producing enough clean power to meet the annual electricity needs of more than 18,400 households;
- Save homes and businesses more than $33 million per year on their electricity bills due to energy efficiency investments; and
- Reduce the state’s carbon emissions by more than 175,000 tons per year—the equivalent of taking more than 33,500 cars off the road.
“Combining existing state clean energy programs with more robust private sector funding can be a more predictable and sustainable route to achieving large scale deployment of solar and renewable goals in the Northeast states,” said Mike Trahan, co-director of NESEMC, an alliance of solar and clean energy groups operating in the Northeast and funded through a cooperative award from the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative. “A good example is the Connecticut Green Bank that has generated nearly $1 billion in alternative energy investments since 2012 with 90 percent of that coming from private investment. It has helped create almost 8,300 state jobs and reduced carbon emissions by 1.4 million tons.”
Maine has opportunities to advance clean energy and energy efficiency deployment, Trahan pointed out. In 2015, the state had 330 solar jobs, ranking 43rd among states, according to the Solar Foundation. The influx of private capital from a green bank could create more new jobs in Maine’s growing solar industry, generate revenue for the state, and help the state affordably meet its clean energy and emission reduction goals.
“Solar energy delivers a strong economic and environmental return on investment because solar technology costs have dropped precipitously over the past five years, allowing consumers to lock in rates for solar electricity that are lower than utility costs,” said Phil Coupe, co-founder of ReVision Energy. “A green bank could help knock down one of the long-standing barriers to widespread solar adoption, which is the fact that many consumers do not have access to low-interest financing to overcome the initial down payment hurdle on a solar investment. A green bank would make this critical first step much easier for consumers and help accelerate the necessary transition to a clean energy economy.”