Connecticut’s green-energy bank hopes to make environmentally-friendly energy a better investment.
The Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority presents itself as a break from traditional clean-energy funding organizations.
CEFIA, a quasi-public agency, emphasizes low-cost financing and uses private investments to get more with less public money.
Created two years ago by Public Act 11-80, CEFIA aims to advance clean-energy technology by supporting development of new technologies, funding projects and attracting consumers with subsidies.
CEFIA’s current projects include subsidies for property owners who install green or energy-efficient technologies and a pilot program to help homeowners afford solar panels with low monthly payments.
“CEFIA is trying to put out a sweep of products in the marketplace and not put ourselves in the position of picking the winners and losers, but provide opportunities,” said David Goldberg, director of government and external relations for CEFIA.
Goldberg said grant approaches used in the past caused problems because the funding was uncertain. He said organizations can be “flush with money and lots of rebates and incentives, and then soon thereafter there is no money.”
CEFIA had its own funding scare recently with the General Assembly passing a budget that took money from the agency, until a subsequent bill provided it with additional funding.
“We are very pleased and grateful for the efforts of the Legislature and the Governor to provide a mechanism that will allow CEFIA to remain financially whole,” said CEFIA President Bryan Garcia.
CEFIA is funded through surcharges tacked onto electric bills – essentially taxes – plus private investments.
It replaced the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, which provided more than $150 million for energy projects, public awareness and education programs in its decade of existence.
For many, the Solyndra incident is still a fresh wound and one that strengthens the belief that green energy can only thrive with the aid of wasteful government subsidies.
“All energy is subsidized,” said Goldberg. “It’s very shocking: the very small amount of subsidies provided for clean energy compared to other resources.”
Clean-energy supporters claim the U.S. provides annual fossil fuel subsidies ranging from $10 to $52 billion. Critics of these estimates say they include tax deductions available to all manufacturers and other policies not targeted at energy companies.
The ARRA allotted a one-time $27.2 billion for renewable energy research and investments and $21.5 billion for energy infrastructure. Clean-energy mandates also subsidize solar, wind and other politically-popular sources of electricity. These laws require utilities to buy more energy from certain sources even when they are more expensive.
Aside from clean energy technology development, CEFIA looks at other ways to go green. There is a lot of discussion about Connecticut’s recycling policies, explains Goldberg, so CEFIA is “looking into enhancing recycling and waste recovery in the state to reduce the amount of waste going into incinerators.” One possibility is investing in Ansonia’s plan to generate electricity by composting food waste.
Zachary Janowski contributed to this article.