D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released a statement saying she plans to create a Green Bank in the city. (Courtesy Photo
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) will send legislation to the D.C. Council to start a publicly-funded financial institution, known as a Green Bank. This entity will focus on investing in environmentally-safe and sensitive technologies and products. “As the nation’s capital, we need to lead the way when it comes to protecting and preserving the environment,” Bowser said in a statement on March 15. “By creating a Green Bank, we will create more jobs for D.C. residents, which will allow us to continue our push for inclusive prosperity, and will take an important step toward reaching the sustainability goals set forth in Climate Ready D.C.”
Climate Ready D.C. is Bowser’s program addressing climate change in the city that results in adverse weather conditions like heatwaves, storms, and flooding.
In its Oct. 12, 2016 edition, WalletHub, a widely-distributed personal finance web site, rated the District the sixth greenest city in the country, with San Francisco as No. 1. The factors used to determine the ranking were greenhouse-gas emissions per capita, smart-energy policies and initiatives, green space, bike score, number of farmers’ markets per capita, and walking score. London is the only other world city to have a Green Bank.
If the District were a state, it would be the greenest state in the nation based on building space per capita, according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual list of top states for LEED Green building.
The Green Bank will be capitalized with $7 million in taxpayer funds which will then used to offer loans, leases, credit enhancements, and other financial services to close funding gaps for clean energy projects. The bank would invest in technology products such as solar energy systems, energy efficient measures, water management systems, and clean transportation infrastructure and equipment to support projects ranging from greening government and private sector buildings to support placing solar panels on individual homes.
Former Ward 6 D.C. Council member Tommy Wells is the director of the District’s Department of Energy and the Environment and is an advocate of the Green Bank. Wells told the AFRO that Black businesses can benefit from the bank.
“The Green Bank will put a lot more capital into the city’s green infrastructure,” he said. “Minority businesses in the city already play a role in the solar power development, retro fitting buildings, high energy efficiency light bulbs and heaters. These products are especially needed in low-income neighborhoods.”
The Green Bank would ease the financing of clean energy technology projects by removing upfront costs, leveraging private investment and the wise use of public funds. Wells said that Black businesses have a major hurdle to cross and the Green Bank could help them with that obstacle.
“The problem is access to capital,” he said. “The Green Bank can help Black businesses get loans at low rates for green projects and arrange reasonable payment terms. The problem with many businesses is getting a loan in the first place and the Green Bank can guarantee loans with a private bank.”
The D.C. Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment, which is chaired by D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), will take up Bowser’s Green Bank proposal. “I think that helping minority businesses in the city should be the number one issue with this Green Bank in my mind,” Joshua Lopez, a small-business owner in the District told the AFRO.”This bank could help minority businesses develop with investments and they will grow. However, for this to work, it has to be intentional on the part of the government.”