Guest commentary: R.I. Infrastructure Bank supports economy, clean environment

Guest commentary: R.I. Infrastructure Bank supports economy, clean environment


This week we celebrate National Infrastructure Week. Strong, resilient infrastructure is a vital component in creating an economic environment where families and businesses can thrive. From the roads we drive on to the water we drink, Rhode Islanders rely on the state’s infrastructure every day. At Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, our programs provide low-cost financing to build, maintain, and improve the state’s infrastructure.

We view infrastructure as not just a basic service, but as a strategic economic development tool to expand our economy and put Rhode Islanders to work.

The Infrastructure Bank’s mandate was expanded in 2015 to help support Rhode Island’s economy and address our high energy costs by creating jobs that make our buildings and homes more energy efficient. During our 25-year history, we’ve invested more than $2 billion in local infrastructure, creating or supporting over 55,000 jobs.

Not only are the Infrastructure Bank’s programs good for our economy, they also protect our environment. Working with Rhode Island’s local governments, we continue to reduce our state’s reliance on fossil fuels by supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Through the state’s Clean Water Revolving Fund and Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund, we finance projects related to the planning, design, and construction of water infrastructure that, when completed, protect our water resources.

Today, we are transitioning from a focus on individual programs to a business formed around customers. We are taking an active approach to improving our state’s infrastructure by connecting with Rhode Island’s communities, learning about their current and future needs and educating them on how we can help them meet their sophisticated infrastructure demands.

A great example of this is the Infrastructure Bank’s recently-established Efficient Buildings Fund (EBF). Municipalities and school districts often lack the funding they need today to move forward with energy efficiency improvements in their old buildings. The EBF was designed to address this need.

The extensive energy retrofits that municipalities are able to fund through the EBF provide energy savings as high as 30 to 40 percent. These cost savings can then be redirected to fixing roads, improving education, or providing tax relief for hard-working Rhode Islanders. In its first year alone, the Infrastructure Bank’s Efficient Buildings Fund provided $17.2 million of financing to support a variety of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. These projects are expected to create or support 263 jobs and ultimately save taxpayers more than $20 million in energy costs.

Our Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program gives Rhode Island’s businesses access to affordable loans for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades that let them realize net energy savings right away. Even better, C-PACE relies primarily on private capital from financial institutions: no taxpayer dollars are used to finance projects.

The Infrastructure Bank recently announced that the first two C-PACE projects have received financing. These projects call for the installation of roof-mounted solar panels on two office buildings in Middletown and will save an estimated $226,000 in energy costs after debt service. These are just a few of the ways that we are helping communities across the state meet their infrastructure needs. But we are not finished, we are continuing to develop new programs and modify our existing programs so that we can better assist even more Rhode Islanders.

At Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, we are thinking about infrastructure as more than just a basic service — it’s an essential component of a thriving economy. Our programs are making it easier to live and do business in Rhode Island — they’re putting people to work, saving money and protecting our natural resources.

Jeffrey Diehl is the CEO of Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank.

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