This little-discussed provision in the Inflation Reduction Act just established the world’s largest green lending program
If you have been waiting on the sidelines, punting your participation in the clean energy economy, and wanting proof that clean energy is America’s future or that the U.S. government would put serious money behind tackling climate change, the Inflation Reduction Act is here—and there are no more excuses for not jumping into action.
America’s first significant climate legislation earmarks a record $369 billion for U.S. energy security and fighting climate change, a potentially game-changing sum.
This unprecedented investment in clean energy will supercharge America’s clean energy economy and has the potential to put U.S. climate goals within our reach. It underlines what we already know: The shift to sustainability will be the largest, fastest shift in behavior in history, and there are massive opportunities for the businesses that will power that transformation across every facet of our lives.
Notably, there is a key $27 billion provision in the bill that, while garnering relatively less attention, has the potential to transform the way the U.S. funds clean energy projects. It’s called the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, and it will provide resources to launch a National Green Bank. The National Green Bank will partner with the private sector and community lenders to invest in clean energy technologies and energy efficiency improvements.
In contrast to the typical driver of American clean energy development, the tax credit (which the Inflation Reduction Act employs extensively as well), the National Green Bank will lend money for clean energy projects with an expected return on investment. Leveraging a relatively small amount of public funds, the bank will act like a supercharged incubator for clean energy projects and render underdeveloped areas of clean energy more attractive to private investors.
According to a 2021 report from the American Green Bank Consortium and the Coalition for Green Capital, smaller-scale green banks in the U.S. have generated, on average, $3.70 in private investment for every dollar the bank invested. This has the potential to revolutionize how clean energy is financed in the U.S. and accelerate the development of new projects.
This will be the largest amount of funds dedicated to public-private investment in clean energy in the world. Other countries, such as Australia or the U.K., have seen great success with their respective national green banks. The U.K.’s green bank drove its offshore wind boom. Australia’s green bank, currently the largest in the world, is investing in wind, solar, and hydrogen development.
With the U.S. government putting its weight and credibility behind fighting the climate crisis, the private sector is poised to capitalize on the investment opportunities, be they through the green bank or otherwise. American companies will find that integrating action to fight climate change into their business offerings is good for their bottom line. It’s what American consumers are showing they demand. With each new headline showing this crisis unfolding, Americans—particularly Gen Z and millennials—are voting with their dollars and actively seeking out sustainable brands.
The Inflation Reduction Act represents great progress in government’s role in confronting the climate crisis, but it will take us only about halfway to where we need to be in terms of the necessary greenhouse gas reductions. The rest will likely be up to the private sector and citizen action. It will be our responsibility as business leaders to seize this opportunity to create the new companies, innovations, and services that will power forth a new, green, and clean economy.
Andrei Cherny is the CEO and cofounder of Aspiration.
The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.
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