Prof-turned-Biden official advocates for 'Green Banks' to fight climate change

A law professor and newly-appointed Biden official serving in the Department of Energy discussed “energy justice” in an interview with NPR, then explained her favored policy solution to Campus Reform.

She discussed the merits of “green banks” — an entity that would finance climate change projects within disadvantaged communities.

A professor and newly-appointed Biden administration official discussed “energy justice” during an interview with NPR, then explained her proposed policy solution to Campus Reform.

Northeastern University law professor Shalanda Baker — who will serve as Deputy Director for Energy Justice in the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the Department of Energy — told Boston’s NPR station that “the energy system is not immune from this broader reckoning with racial and social justice.”

Baker said that she sees “the issues of the energy and environment through the prism of George Floyd.” Pointing out that minority communities are more likely to experience energy insecurity, she suggested the possibility of implementing “green banks” to foster more independent energy solutions for disadvantaged communities.

“Now, if there were say, ‘green banks’ that can lend money and think about the credit risk in a more creative way, we would be able to get more community solar projects off the ground,” she explained. “I think the federal government has a lot of leeway to think about creating a federal green bank model.”

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Baker’s interview was published on January 20 — the day Biden assumed office.

Campus Reform asked Baker to elaborate on her stance on “green banks” and whether the Biden administration would attempt to establish them at the federal level. Though she said she is “not in a position right now to discuss the Biden Administration’s position on whether the federal government can operate a green bank,” Baker pointed Campus Reform toward two analyses of green banks that she found to be “interesting.”

One analysis — offered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory — advocated green banks as “one mechanism used to deploy low-cost capital for solar energy projects by offering favorable rates and terms to both traditional and underserved markets.”

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The other — created by the Coalition for Green Capital, a “non-profit with a mission to halt climate change by accelerating investment in clean energy technologies” — says that green banks “care about deploying clean energy rather than maximizing profit.”

“Ultimately, green banks aim to fight climate change,” continued the Coalition for Green Capital’s website. “We have a short window to accomplish the clean energy transition if we are to avoid the worst impacts. The accelerated adoption of clean energy facilitated by a green bank is a powerful and cost-effective part of a full climate policy platform.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) Green New Deal calls for “providing and leveraging, in a way that ensures that the public receives appropriate ownership stakes and returns on investment, adequate capital (including through community grants, public banks, and other public financing), technical expertise, supporting policies, and other forms of assistance to communities, organizations, Federal, State, and local government agencies, and businesses working on the Green New Deal mobilization.”

U.S. Department of Energy Press Secretary Kevin Liao told Campus Reform that Baker was “speaking on her own behalf prior to joining the administration.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft