Special Feature: CPES interview with Bryan Garcia, head of Connecticut’s “Green Bank”
When Connecticut policymakers set up a “green bank” in 2011 to promote clean energy projects in the state, it tapped a California native and emerging Connecticut leader to help the organization achieve its goals. Bryan Garcia was working in community development for Connecticut’s leading academic and business concerns before he rejoined the state’s clean energy finance team. The Connecticut Power & Energy Society asked Bryan to be interviewed for a special feature to highlight the state’s progress in developing clean energy.
What is the Clean Energy Finance & Investment Authority?
The Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) is a new quasi-public agency that supersedes the former Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (CCEF). It was established by the Connecticut General Assembly on July 1, 2011 as a part of an energy bill that launched Connecticut’s new comprehensive energy strategy (Public Act 11-80). CEFIA’s vision is to help ensure Connecticut’s energy security and community prosperity by realizing its environmental and economic opportunities through clean energy finance and investments. As the nation’s first full-scale “green bank,” CEFIA leverages public funds with private funds to drive investment in the deployment of clean energy projects in Connecticut.
CEFIA is referred to as a “green bank.” What does this mean?
In its simplest form, a “green bank” is an entity that uses limited taxpayer and/or ratepayer funds to attract and deploy private capital to finance clean energy deployment at scale. The conventional way of building a clean energy market was through government subsidies and rebates. The focus of a “green bank” is to work alongside the private sector to deploy more clean energy faster while maximizing the value of funding provided by ratepayers and/or taxpayers.
What are the goals that you have established for the organization and how do these fit into the Governor’s Energy Strategy?
CEFIA is guided by the policy objectives and priorities established by the Governor and the Connecticut General Assembly (CGA). Our mission is to deliver cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable sources of energy while creating jobs and supporting local economic development in Connecticut.
To that end, we have established three goals to support these efforts:
- Attract and deploy capital to finance CT’s clean energy goals;
- Develop and implement strategies to that bring down the cost of clean energy in order to make it more accessible and affordable to consumers; and
- Reduce reliance on grants, rebates, and other subsidies and move toward innovative low-cost financing of clean energy deployment.
The achievement of these goals supports the implementation of Public Act 11-80, Public Act 12-1, Public Act 13-298, the Comprehensive Energy Strategy and Integrated Resources Plan, and other key policies.
How has CEFIA been able to attract private capital to support CT’s clean energy goals?
When the Governor and CGA repurposed the CCEF into CEFIA, we had to recreate the organization, including refocusing existing staff, hiring new staff, and we even had some staff move on to other opportunities outside of the organization. We hired some very talented private sector individuals who have been able to take their knowledge and experience to create partnerships with financial institutions and develop products that attract their capital into clean energy in Connecticut. We have more than a dozen local, regional, and national banks and other financial institutions involved in our products and programs. This speaks to the tremendous job we have done as an organization in creating strategic partnerships with industry by understanding their perceptions of risk and return and balancing that with our focus in making capital more easily accessible and affordable to homeowners, businesses, and institutions.
What has been the response/feedback from private financial institutions including local and state banks?
Frankly, they LOVE IT. We have created products with them through the Connecticut Solar Lease and the Smart-E Loan which has attracted community, state and regional banks as well as credit unions to finance residential projects, or through our Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program which has attracted state, national, and international financial institutions to finance commercial, industrial and multifamily projects. Working together, we are offering homeowners, businesses and institutions easier access to affordable capital to support clean energy through lower interest rates and longer maturity terms thereby reducing the costs of energy.
What has been the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge has been managing stakeholder expectations during a time of organizational transition. As the nation’s first state-level “green bank,” we have a lot of eyes on what we are doing. Connecticut is at the forefront of a growing national movement to change the way that state governments promote clean energy. It took us a year to refocus ourselves from an organization driven by the conventional grant and subsidy model towards one which leverages taxpayer and ratepayer funds to attract multiples of private investment in clean energy. We are now starting to see the results of the “green bank” model versus the conventional approach.
What have been the biggest success stories thus far?
In FY 2013, we attracted $180 million of private investment in clean energy in Connecticut using $40 million of taxpayer and ratepayer resources – $20 million of which will be returned back to CEFIA because it was in the form of loans not grants or rebates. This achieved a 9:1 leverage ratio and deploying nearly 30 MW of new clean renewable energy in Connecticut. Deploying over $200 million in the clean energy economy in Connecticut has dramatic social and environmental impacts – more jobs and less-emissions. The CEFIA model is delivering more clean energy deployment with fewer ratepayer resources at a much faster pace than the subsidy model. This is the “green bank” model at work.
Having pointed out the “big picture” results in FY 2013, there are a few specific success stories that I am very excited about, including:
- Providing nearly $6 million of critical financing support to attract $65 million of private investment in the largest fuel cell project in North America—the Dominion Bridgeport Fuel Cell park –a 15 MW fuel cell project using Connecticut-manufactured technology from Fuel Cell Energy and deployed on a recovered brownfield in a distressed community;
- Working with the solar PV contractor industry that is deploying over 13 MW of residential rooftop solar PV in a year-and-a-half in almost 2,000 households and investing over $60 million in these projects throughout the state;
- Closing on a $60 million fund with a tax equity investor and syndicate of debt lenders from state and regional banks here in Connecticut to finance residential solar PV and solar thermal hot water systems as well as commercial solar PV;
- Offering credit enhancements to local community banks and credit unions to attract $30 million of investment by them in the Smart-E Loan enabling homeowners to finance renewable energy and energy efficiency measures as well as natural gas conversions , EV recharging stations, and healthy home measures like asbestos remediation, mold removal, lead abatement, etc.;
- Launching the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program in only a year by onboarding over 60 towns with over 200 contractors and 14 capital providers. C-PACE allows end-users to substantially save on energy as a result of being able to go deeper on energy efficiency while at the same time reducing their operating expenses for energy; and
- Piloting a community-based marketing program to lower the installed costs of residential rooftop solar PV systems by 20% to 30% through a program we call Solarize Connecticut. This program is being studied by Yale University as a model for making clean energy more accessible and affordable to the masses and we are piloting an adaptation of the model for natural gas conversions.
These results have created more than 1,200 jobs in a year and reduced over 250,000 tons of CO2 emissions over the life of these projects!
How has the installer industry reacted, and responded?
We are pleased to have the installer community as one of our key partners.
We work closely with Solar Connecticut – the industry association for residential solar PV contractors. From 2004 through 2011, the CCEF worked with these contractors in Connecticut to deploy nearly 2,000 projects totaling 13 MW of solar PV. In a year-and-a-half, CEFIA has worked with these contractors and attracted several others into the state to deploy the same amount of projects and installed capacity while also reducing the level of rebates being offered to homeowners. The industry is doing an excellent job reducing installed costs, specifically soft costs, thereby making solar PV more affordable and therefore accessible to households. We are now working closely with these contractors to promote loan and lease financing products to their customers.
We also work closely with the Renewable Energy and Efficiency Business Association (REEBA). REEBA is the association for commercial and industrial clean energy contractors. We have partnered with them on several match-making events linking contractors to customers, customers to capital providers, and in December we will link energy efficiency contractors to renewable energy contractors and financing. CEFIA works closely with industry because next to customers and capital providers, they are key stakeholders for our organization. By bringing financial products like C-PACE to them, they can better compete in the zero emissions renewable energy credit (ZREC) and low emissions renewable energy credit (LREC) markets due to accessing lower cost and long term financing.
In partnership with these industry associations, CEFIA is doing more with less…and faster!
Do you have financing products that support clean energy which do not require any money upfront?
Almost all of the financial products we have developed with our financial institution partners have zero-money-down options. Our goal is to create products that deliver immediate positive cash flow to homeowners and businesses – meaning the monthly or annual repayment of a lease or a loan is less than the energy savings an end-user is receiving from the clean energy deployed through financing. When clean energy is more affordable to customers and capital is easier to access for consumers, then we expect more clean energy to be deployed – and thus far that is the result we are achieving. Having easy access to affordable capital upfront, overcomes many customer barriers to clean energy.
Please explain some of the innovative approaches CEFIA is pursuing in partnership with industry to drive down the cost of clean energy.
I like to say we learn, and then implement, best practices from others!
In 2012, we discovered Solarize from Portland, Oregon and Massachusetts. Through Solarize Connecticut, households are seeing a reduction of the installed costs of an average sized solar PV system of $7,500 – a reduction of between 20-30% of the installed cost of a system – through a community-based “neighbor to neighbor” marketing approach in partnership with SmartPower. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in consumer demand for rooftop solar PV because clean energy is more affordable and is now providing CEFIA with an opportunity to bring our financial products into the market to provide homeowners with easier access to capital.
The Solarize Connecticut model is now being studied by Yale University through a $1.8 million DOE grant. We are adapting the model to see if it works for other technologies like solar hot water systems, natural gas conversions and heating equipment replacements, and energy efficiency. Working with the Norwich Public Utilities, Core Plus Federal Credit Union, Eastern Savings Bank and SmartPower, we are seeing similar results for our Energize Norwich campaign for natural gas conversions as we are for solar PV through our Solarize Connecticut campaigns.
How did you get into this business?
I was recruited by the CCEF in 2000 while interning at the corporate headquarters of General Electric in Fairfield, Connecticut. During graduate school, I had completed a CV that was put into a resume book that Yale put together for employers and search firms. A man named Terry Hannock saw my resume and contacted me at GE on behalf of the CCEF. I had never imagined an opportunity in the clean energy industry–because my past experiences were in community and international development, environmental education, and entrepreneurship. That’s the path that brought me into the clean-energy business.
After leaving the CCEF in 2007 and starting up the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, and co-founding a company called Earth Markets, which received a $4.2 million grant to implement a community-based residential energy efficiency program in Connecticut, I returned to public service to start Connecticut’s “green bank” in 2011. Governor Malloy wanted to change the status quo for clean energy in Connecticut. His vision was to use limited public funds to scale up clean energy deployment – do more with less and faster. In only two years, CEFIA is on the path that he expected. We now see other states like Hawaii, Maryland, and New York, creating their own “green banks.”
What drives you personally?
Some of my earliest childhood memories are being with my family, fishing for trout on a lake in California. My commitment to the environment and clean energy is driven by my desire to preserve those types of environments for future generations.
What is one word that you believe best describes you?
Who do you believe will win the World Series this year? Why?
I was born and raised in Southern California, so I cheer for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels, but I believe the camaraderie of the Boston Red Sox clubhouse and the unity of the individuals as teammates make them the best pick to win the World Series. Boston Strong!
How can people follow developments at CEFIA?
If you are a capital provider and want to follow our efforts to attract private capital investment in Connecticut’s clean energy economy go to www.ctcleanenergy.com. If you are a consumer or contractor visit www.energizect.com.