In the search for the jobs of the future, Connecticut has been smart to invest in the development of the green energy economy. The state has been recognized nationally as taking a leadership role and the creation of the Connecticut Green Bank is a centerpiece of the effort. In a state often criticized for its attentiveness to business concerns, Connecticut’s decision to embrace green energy represents forward-thinking policy that is creating jobs today.
It is of concern that lawmakers who are trying to end the state’s current budget stalemate are considering looking to the Green Bank as a source of funding to temporarily cover a deficit. Such a move is not only short-sighted from a budget perspective, but it would set back progress in a key area of economic development.
Green energy is an economic sector that can grow in any state regardless of geographic location or existing infrastructure. It is a new industry, so in a sense, while every state is starting from the same point, the Connecticut Green Bank gives our state a critical advantage. Other states recognize our leadership in this area. They are looking to Connecticut for help starting their own green bank programs.
The measurable evidence of the success of the Connecticut Green Bank is compelling. Since its start in 2011, Green Bank financing has helped grow businesses focused on energy efficiency and clean energy production. Dozens of companies specializing in solar installation have sprung up, leading to new jobs in an area with nothing but growth potential. The Green Bank’s loan programs have attracted over $1 billion in private investment and over 13,500 jobs to the state.
From a policy perspective, there is little value in using the proceeds of a program designed to create jobs to pay for the operation of general government. The Connecticut Green Bank is making significant progress for us when it comes to job growth and environmental protection. It should be prioritized by policy-makers accordingly and be the focus of additional, not reduced investment. Any proceeds from its loan programs should be directly re-invested to create more jobs.
In a state that has transformed its economy many times; from agriculture, to manufacturing, to financial services and bio-science – a strong public investment in the establishment of Connecticut as a leader in green energy makes perfect sense. We should be taking advantage of the head start we have created for ourselves.
Gov. Dannel Malloy and the legislature in a bipartisan fashion created the Connecticut Green Bank as part of a stated policy to make energy in Connecticut less expensive, more reliable and sustainable. Let’s not squander the significant progress we have made in pursuit of all three of those goals. The Connecticut Green Bank should not be used as a cash machine to fund general government programs, but as an engine of our future economy.
Paul Michaud is the executive director and founder of the Renewable Energy and Efficiency Business Association.