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Mayor Bowser Pushes Legislation for Green Bank

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is planning to introduce new legislation that may totally change the way the District finances green energy.

The initial hearing for the meeting is set to take place April 4, and if passed by the city council, will make D.C. the first U.S. city to offer this sort of “Green Bank” program.

Bowser championed the new bill, which aims to boost the use of clean energy technology by leveraging private investment, easing upfront costs and increasing the efficiency of public dollars.

“As the nation’s capital, we need to lead the way when it comes to protecting and preserving the environment,” Bowser said. “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.”

Bowser said the legislation is an important step toward reaching the sustainability goals set forth in Climate Ready DC, the city’s climate-adaptation plan.

The bank is anticipated to be funded through money from the District’s Renewable Energy Development Fund, with $7 million a year for five years. D.C. businesses and residents would pay into the fund, which in turn, D.C. leaders would make loans from.

Tommy Wells, director of D.C.’s Department of Energy & Environment, has hopes that eventually, varied sources of funding will come from grants and bonding and private investments as well.

“This new bill would not only free up capital, but also help residents to save on power bills and reduce greenhouse gases,” Wells said. “Seventy-four percent of greenhouse gases in Washington, D.C., are caused by energy consumption in buildings. We want to mitigate global warming by 50 percent by 2032 with major retrofits of buildings. For every $1 the government puts into the bank, it will be able to lend $6.”

The program, which is expected to be managed by a board of directors, will function as an independent agency that offers funds for energy improvements for individuals and companies. Potential items that may be funded through the bank include solar panels, geothermal-powered sewer systems and energy-efficient HVAC systems.

In addition, the new program is also expected to create green jobs for city residents and reduce carbon emissions and utility costs.

A similar green-bank program is already underway in London, and Wells said that the D.C. program is modeled after one started by the state of Connecticut. That program, launched in 2012, has invested $35 million a year and has leveraged $1 billion to date. It’s also created 17,000 green jobs and invested $1 billion in solar power and other clean energy sources.

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Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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