When President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, an extensive healthcare, tax and climate bill last month, a provision was included that established a “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund” that will both directly and indirectly finance clean energy projects across the country. Now, the state of Nevada’s green bank, the Nevada Clean Energy Fund, is positioning itself for some of the $27 billion authorized specifically for green banks under the legislation. As one of just 21 green banks across the country, the state of Nevada is poised to be a strong candidate in acquiring funding for clean energy initiatives.
“The objective of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund is to support green bank-type activities, providing financing for clean energy projects, primarily in the form of low-interest loans and similar investment-type products,” said Kirsten Stasio, executive director of the Nevada Clean Energy Fund. “So the $27 billion of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund is going to be administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, and it has really been driven by stakeholders who want to see green bank activities scale and develop across the US, including in Nevada.”
The Nevada Clean Energy Fund was established in 2017, after Senate Bill 407 was signed into law by then-Governor Brian Sandoval. Since then, Governor Steve Sisolak has moved NCEF forward with the establishment of its Board of Directors and hiring Stasio as its first executive director in January 2022.
“Being established and having a structure in place is a competitive advantage for Nevada in accessing those funds,” Stasio said. “The Nevada Clean Energy Fund is a strong signal to the US EPA that Nevada is ready to receive and successfully implement these funds.”
Since coming onboard as its inaugural executive director, Stasio and the Nevada Clean Energy Fund have begun orchestrating several clean energy projects across the state.
“Some of the programs that we’re launching include a home energy upgrade program,” Stasio said. “We’ll be working with both local lenders and local contractors to make energy upgrades, financing things like energy-efficiency retrofits and rooftop solar, [making them] more accessible to homeowners in the state.”
In line with the nature of green banks, a key component is delivering clean energy opportunities to disadvantaged populations, such as low-income and rural communities.
“Typically green banks have a big focus on making clean energy accessible to those underserved communities, because often they are the ones that are the most overlooked by traditional investors,” Stasio said. “The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund provision in the Inflation Reduction Act requires that a significant portion of the funding be directed towards low-income and disadvantaged communities. Green banks specialize in making that clean energy funding available to those communities.”
That, in part, is another reason why one of the Nevada Clean Energy Fund’s priorities over the past year has been a school bus electrification project in the state’s rural communities.
“Rural areas are definitely a priority for the Nevada Clean Energy Fund, given the many challenges that stakeholders in rural areas face, maybe they don’t have the technical capacity to think about and assess the clean energy options, or they might be too remote to be accessible to energy efficiency contractors, etc.,” Stasio said. “Three of the school districts that we work closely with in the rural areas are submitting for ten electric school buses through the EPA, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program.”
Nevadans living in multifamily housing also stand to benefit from clean energy projects facilitated through the Nevada Clean Energy Fund.
“A third program we’re prioritizing is clean energy for multifamily housing, to really help bring those housing costs down and increase occupant comfort and make clean energy accessible to folks who live in multifamily housing units, who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access those clean energy opportunities,” Stasio said.
All of these programs, and more, could be facilitated with funding through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund provision in the Inflation Reduction Act. According to the legislation, the EPA has 180 calendar days to start receiving and processing applications for grant funding. In the meantime, the Nevada Clean Energy Fund is coordinating with other, already-established green banks to support the structural design and implementation of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.
“The idea behind the legislation is that at least $20 billion of that is going to go towards capitalization of a national green bank and that is what we’re working on with the Coalition for Green Capital,” Stasio said. “[We’re working] to develop best practices and standards for how these funds can be implemented, based on successful program models that have been implemented over the past decade, [which] is also an important component of showing that we’re informing what we’re doing based on proven and successful practices that have occurred elsewhere.”
Guiding the structure and implementation of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund further positions Nevada at the forefront of readily acquiring and discharging the soon-to-be-available funds effectively, while advancing Nevada’s role as a clean energy leader in the country.
“The Nevada Clean Energy Fund can really build on the existing leadership of the state in the clean energy sector, both from an industry standpoint with solar and energy storage being huge economic and job sectors within the state, as well as from a policy standpoint with the aggressive, clean energy and climate targets that the state government has put in place in the legislature,” Stasio said.
Furthermore, the potential funding for clean energy projects in the state goes beyond the $27 billion allocated specifically to green banks under the Inflation Reduction Act.
“Green banks are designed to fill those gaps in clean energy markets that traditional investors won’t typically operate in,” Stasio said. “But in so doing, they can often make those sectors attractive to those traditional investors and catalyze additional private funding into that space, so the potential funding opportunity is even greater than the amount that’s listed in the bill.”
Scott King writes about science and the environment for the Sierra Nevada Ally. He has a Master’s degree in Media Innovation from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing with a minor in Marketing from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. Scott served for two years as a literacy instructor with the Peace Corps in the community of Gouyave, Grenada. Support his work.
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