Investing in a Cleaner Connecticut

Can a public entity jumpstart private investment in clean energy? At the MBA for Executives program’s Colloquium on Sustainability on January 23, EMBA students heard from Bryan Garcia, president and CEO of the Connecticut Green Bank, about his team’s efforts to attract private investment in the state and make cleaner energy sources more widely available to consumers. 

“How can we reduce greenhouse gas emission faster?” Garcia said. “At the end of the day, that’s what our focus is.”

The bank, a quasi-public agency, leverages public and private funds to encourage investment in clean energy technologies across the state. Garcia’s role is to find a balance between the needs of the private sector and executing public policy to achieve a long-term vision of a state reliant on cleaner energy sources, he said. The bank brings leaders from both fields together to find common areas for cooperation and to incentivize businesses to invest in the state.

“Our goal is to support economic development and environmental protection,” he said. “To get there, we need to use the limited public resources we have to attract and leverage multiples of private investment in our state.”                          

The bank’s efforts may include what Garcia called a “Groupon-like” approach to solar panel installation at homes and businesses across the state. That plan would allow a large group of customers to take advantage of obtaining cleaner energy at a lower cost, with the long-term hope of lowering cost of panels to consumers statewide. Currently, Kenneth Gillingham, assistant professor of economics at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies; the Yale Center for Business and the Environment; and the nonprofit marketing firm SmartPower are studying this approach through a $1.8 million grant received from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Our focus is on accelerating private investment in clean energy deployment. The more investment you achieve, the less subsidies are needed for markets to grow,” Garcia said. “If we can create a market to attract large national companies to want to do business and compete for customers in Connecticut, then we can begin to reduce the market’s reliance on subsidies to sustain itself.”

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