How to Finance a Greener Future

New York is the latest on a growing list of state and municipal governments to establish green banks.

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While crippling paralysis has become standard operating procedure for Congress in the face of mounting climate and energy challenges, state and local leaders don’t have the luxury of standing idle. Around the country, many governors and mayors are finding new ways to respond to the real-world challenges of a changing climate. Chief among these efforts is a growing movement to establish state green banks: innovative new financial institutions that use public debt to leverage new and significant private-sector investment in more modern and less-polluting domestic clean energy infrastructure. Notably, in 2013, the state of New York set the foundation for a $1 billion state green bank to support private investment in New York’s clean energy economy. In December 2013, Gov. Cuomo announced an initial capitalization of $210 million to fund the bank’s launch in early 2014. Launching this bank is an important act of leadership by the governor and the New York state government to provide better tools to build a stronger, more competitive, and more resilient economy.

The New York Green Bank is launching at a time of mounting evidence of the direct negative impacts of climate change on the nation’s environment, economy, and energy infrastructure. Superstorm Sandy exposed this vulnerability with stark urgency and in so doing has underscored the critical investment challenge of rapidly building smart, resilient, and low-carbon energy infrastructure. At the same time, new clean energy technologies are distinctly ready to meet this challenge, but bringing these technologies to scaled deployment across the economy is contingent on having ready access to capital and strong market structures to support new investment.

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