Case in point: This week, Deutsche Bank called for the establishment of a “national infrastructure bank” to create “green” jobs, fight global warming and ensure U.S. energy independence by investing in an array of projects – from energy efficiency to upgrading the Eisenhower-era power grid to large-scale renewable energy power plants.
The idea of a national infrastructure bank is not new – versions have been proposed by Obama and Senators Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to finance the repair of the nation’s crumbling highways, water systems and cities. Deutsche’s twist is to give such an institution a green mission.
“We believe this confluence opens up an historic opportunity for a new U.S. administration and Congress to take a global leadership position on the issue of the environment and energy security, while addressing current financial problems,” wrote Deutsche Bank’s Climate Change Investment Research team in its report.
“We’re calling for the national infrastructure bank to go green because in the long run it will save us money and create more jobs,” Deutsche senior investment analyst Bruce Kahn told Green Wombat.
He says Deutsche Bank is not putting a dollar figure on the capitalization of such bank, but the report notes others have suggested a $100 billion investment would generate two million green jobs.
Deutsche Bank (DB) recommends a green infrastructure bank focus on energy efficiency, the transmission grid, renewable energy and public transportation. The green bank would dispense federal funding, make grants to states and cities, issue loans to governments and companies, underwrite public and private bonds, and provide tax credits for public and private projects.
In Deutsche Bank’s analysis, the biggest bang for the buck would come from a massive retrofit program to increase the energy efficiency of the nation’s commercial buildings and make sure the 1.8 million new homes constructed every year are green. Buildings consume as much as 50% of the electricity generated in urban areas and emit about 20% of the country’s greenhouse gases. The work of installing energy-efficient heating, lighting and air conditioning systems is labor intensive and would spike demand for green building materials.
Upgrading and digitizing the power grid to create a “transmission super highway” to bring solar and wind energy from the deserts and Great Plains to the cities could generate as many as 500,000 jobs, according to an estimate by the American Wind Energy Association. The price tag to modernize the grid: $450 billion over the next 15 years by New Energy Finance’s estimate.
One area given short shrift by the Deutsche report is how a green infrastructure bank would support large-scale renewable energy power plants. Wind farms and solar power stations typically require billions of dollars in financing to get built and rely on investors buying the tax credits the projects generate. Those investors have been in short supply thanks to the credit crunch and the collapse of the Wall Street banks that often put up the cash for such deals.
“Everyone’s lost money, there’s no tax equity to be had,” says Kahn. “But we expect that tax credit equity investors will return to the market, not next month, but in the next couple of years.” Kahn says an infrastructure bank could support green energy power plant projects through loans and loan guarantees.
A green bank would also be good business for Deutsche Bank.
“We have large number of investments at stake, current investments in all these sectors,” says Kahn. “It provides an investment opportunity as this infrastructure bank would not be able to exist all on its own. It would need private capital to invest alongside it.”