CLEVELAND, Ohio â€” Cuyahoga County took a first step this week toward launching a â€śgreen bank,â€ť which could make it easier to finance clean energy projects and infrastructure throughout the county.
The Board of Control on Monday approved a $50,000 contract with the non-profit Coalition for Green Capital to lay groundwork for a green bank, described as a tool to help lend money for energy efficient, renewable energy or other green initiatives.
The bank could finance clean energy and infrastructure projects through longer-term, lower-interest loans, or use other financial tools to make green projects more affordable for residents, non-profits, local governments, industries or other commercial ventures, said county Director of Sustainability Mike Foley.
If the proposal moves forward as planned, the potential Cuyahoga County Green Bank could launch as early as late 2019, according to a news release.
Projects that could be financed by a green bank include:
â€˘Solar panels for homes and businesses
â€˘Landfills repurposed for clean energy projects
â€˘Electric vehicle charging stations
â€˘Storm water run-off diversion from Lake Erie
â€˘LED lighting structures
â€˘Other endeavors that seek to reduce the costs of natural gas and electricity, like making buildings energy-efficient
The contract approved by the Board of Control on Monday calls for Green Capital to assess financing gaps for green projects in Cuyahoga County, to figure out what financing already exists for those projects, and to determine how the green bank could be created, perhaps as part of a non-profit, or through a government entity that already exists, Foley said.
After that, money will have to be set aside to fund the green bank and an executive director would be chosen to oversee its operations. Once those steps are complete, the green bank could be launched and its governing board appointed. It could then start financing projects, Foley said.
Funding for the green bank could come from a variety of sources. Foley said he will advocate for the county using public money to help launch the fund.
Other organizations, such as the Gund Foundation, Cleveland Foundation, Key Bank, city of Cleveland and Council on Smaller Enterprise have been meeting with the county for months to help develop the idea. They could contribute money to the fund as well, but those details have yet to be worked out, Foley said.
The Coalition for Green Capital suggests that green banks should be launched with no less than $25 million in available capital, according to Foley.
â€śWe wonâ€™t move forward until we know thereâ€™s enough money in the fund,â€ť Foley said.
The Coalition for Green Capital, based out of Washington D.C., is the only organization that offers consulting to help develop green banks, and it has developed all the green banks currently operating in the country, according to Mondayâ€™s Board of Control agenda.
Most other green banks in America exist at the state level, such as those in Connecticut, New York, Nevada, and Colorado, but there is a county-level green bank in Montgomery County, Maryland as well, according to the coalitionâ€™s website.