Don’t balance the budget at expense of green energy

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The state budget is still an open book. It is not hard to see that Connecticut has serious unresolved fiscal challenges, but it is also apparent that our state has fundamental advantages and strong economic development tools at its disposal to promote job creation and infrastructure investment.  One such tool is the Connecticut Green Bank.

A budget proposal recently vetoed by the governor proposed taking roughly half of the Green Bank’s annual funding for the next two years. This would be counterproductive for Connecticut’s economy, job creation and produce unintended results such as less tax dollars flowing to the state’s coffers in the long run due to the decrease in economic activity. On average, for every dollar invested by the Green Bank toward green energy projects, the private sector invests eight dollars. These co-investments help private capital lenders see the value in the green economy we are building in Connecticut. And – because the Green Bank funds projects with loans, not grants – these dollars are returned to the Green Bank so they can be invested again in even more projects.

The O,R&L Construction Group is building a microgrid in Bridgeport. This microgrid will provide power and heat to city hall, the police station, and a local senior center.  In the event of a storm outage, the microgrid will ensure that energy is provided to these critical facilities. The finished project will save the city money over the long-term.

Through the involvement of the Connecticut Green Bank, the project attracted financing from Key Bank which enabled us to put the shovels in the ground and get to work constructing this vitally important resource. The Connecticut Green Bank is one of the most user-friendly government agencies we have ever worked with.

The Green Bank concept of public-private partnerships – started in Connecticut – is so compelling that federal legislation has been introduced to establish a national-level green bank to help finance clean energy infrastructure. The Connecticut Green Bank has helped to create over 13,000 jobs through its investments and is one of the few bright spots for job creation in our state.

The Connecticut Green Bank is growing the local and state tax base and any cuts to its funding would be a mistake. Any banker knows that it takes money to make money, and when a pledge is made to the investment community it sets in motion a whole sequence of actions based on the faith of that pledge. In the construction sector, financing provides us the capital we need to get projects started and moving towards success.

The ability of the state to attract private capital investment hinges on the belief that commitments will be honored. In this respect, using Green Bank funds to balance the state budget would be an unfortunate example of counter-productive public policy and would put the continued success of the Green Bank at risk.

 Todd Renz is president of the O,R&L Construction Group. 

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