"This is a win for workers, our economy, and our fight to confront the climate crisis," said Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen.
U.S. President Joe Biden's administration on Friday opened a pair of grant competitions with a combined $20 billion in public funding designed to "mobilize private capital into clean technology projects."
The initiative aims to "create good-paying jobs and lower energy costs for American families, especially in low-income and disadvantaged communities, while cutting harmful pollution to protect people's health and tackle the climate crisis," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explained in a statement.
The $14 billion National Clean Investment Fund (NCIF) seeks to expand the deployment of green technologies nationally while the goal of the $6 billion Clean Communities Investment Accelerator (CCIA) is to increase local green financing capacity via community lenders.
"Today, communities around the country are getting a green light for a new historic era of green financing."
Both programs are part of the $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) established last year when congressional Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act. The final $7 billion component of the GGRF, the "Solar for All" program, was unveiled last month.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced the NCIF and CCIA grant competitions at an event at Coppin State University in Baltimore. He was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, Democratic Sens. Tom Carper (Del.), Ed Markey (Mass.), and Chris Van Hollen (Md.), and Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone (N.J.) and David Trone (Md.).
"Communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis will be the first to reap the benefits of President Biden's historic investments in the clean economy," said Regan. "The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund will spur private investment into clean technology projects and expand economic opportunity for communities that have been left behind, for families that want lower energy costs, and for workers who need good-paying jobs."
According to the EPA, the NCIF "will provide grants to support two to three national clean financing institutions, enabling them to partner with the private sector to provide accessible, affordable financing for tens of thousands of clean technology projects nationwide."
"By mobilizing significant amounts of private capital, these national nonprofits will ensure that every dollar of public funds generates several times more in private investment," the agency said. "At least 40% of the funds from the National Clean Investment Fund will be dedicated to low-income and disadvantaged communities."
Meanwhile, the CCIA "will provide grants to support two to seven hub nonprofit organizations, enabling them to provide funding and technical assistance to public, quasi-public, not-for-profit, and nonprofit community lenders working in low-income and disadvantaged communities—supporting the goal that every community in the country has access to the capital they need to deploy clean technology projects," the EPA continued.
"These hub nonprofits will enable hundreds of community lenders—such as community development financial institutions (including Native CDFIs), credit unions, green banks, housing finance agencies, and minority depository institutions—to finance clean technology projects in low-income and disadvantaged communities while also mobilizing private capital and building the enduring capacity of community lenders to finance these projects for years to come," the agency added. "100% of the funds from the Clean Communities Investment Accelerator will be dedicated to low-income and disadvantaged communities."
Applicants have until October 12 to request grants.
"This program will bring life-changing projects to environmental justice and frontline communities around the country, delivering on the promise of a livable future for all."
The nationwide green investment strategy elicited praise from progressive members of Congress.
"It's been over a decade since we first put the idea of creating a national climate bank on paper," said Van Hollen, who introduced legislation to create a federal green bank 14 years ago. "Today, that idea is becoming a reality. With the launch of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, we are deploying powerful tools to help us address climate change through innovative new solutions while creating jobs and growing our economy."
"These funds will serve as a force multiplier for private investment in clean energy projects to cut emissions and promote environmental justice in underserved communities across the country," he added. "This is a win for workers, our economy, and our fight to confront the climate crisis."
Markey, the lead sponsor of the National Climate Bank Act that inspired the creation of the GGRF, concurred.
"Today, communities around the country are getting a green light for a new historic era of green financing," said Markey, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety.
"I am thrilled to celebrate the hard work of Administrator Regan and the Biden-Harris administration and herald the start of a national clean financing network, funded by the landmark investments of the Inflation Reduction Act," the lawmaker added. "From clean transit to healthy housing, applicants to this program will bring life-changing projects to environmental justice and frontline communities around the country, delivering on the promise of a livable future for all."