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A Warmer World

Nonprofit lenders compete to distribute $27 billion for greenhouse gas reduction projects

Elizabeth Trovall Aug 14, 2023
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Grants from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund can go toward initiatives like boosting electric vehicle infrastructure. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
A Warmer World

Nonprofit lenders compete to distribute $27 billion for greenhouse gas reduction projects

Elizabeth Trovall Aug 14, 2023
Heard on:
Grants from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund can go toward initiatives like boosting electric vehicle infrastructure. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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A year after federal lawmakers created the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to finance clean energy projects through the Inflation Reduction Act, the competition is on for lenders to win some of the $27 billion.

With fall grant application deadlines just around the corner, it’s all hands on deck for nonprofit lenders bidding to distribute billions of government dollars.

“The clock is ticking. There’s definitely no vacation time this summer for all of us,” said Bryan Garcia with the Connecticut Green Bank, which is applying for funds that would finance projects to help New Englanders deal with the consequences of severe weather. “We want to see clean energy, energy efficiency, battery storage.”

The money will be used to finance projects in low-income communities the market leaves behind, he said.

Nicole Elam is president and CEO of the National Bankers Association, a trade group of minority-owned financial institutions.

“When I think about my members, they serve communities that are 77% minority, that are two times more likely to be denied for a small-business loan by large institutions, even if they have the exact same credit profile,” she said.

​Her group is part of a coalition of lenders that created the Justice Climate Fund to apply for money as one entity and then distribute it to credit unions and other financial institutions across the country.

“Because you want to be able to show that you’ve got national impact,” she explained.

Those grants will help community lenders finance anything from home heat pumps to boosting EV infrastructure, per Whitney Mann with the clean energy think tank RMI.

“If you think about, if there’s not an EV charger that’s available for public use, then you’re not going to be interested in EV unless you own a home with an area where you can charge your EV,” she said.

​While $27 billion is clearly not enough to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets, “it’s a significant and unprecedented down payment,” noted Adam Kent of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

​Funding is not only going to attract additional private-sector capital, he said. It will also be recycled over time.

​”They make an EV loan, that loan gets repaid, and then that allows the credit union to make another EV loan,” he said.

​Kent added that the money could start flowing into projects by late next year.

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