Two Native-led green banks are starting up in Alaska

A line coming up to a boat attached to some buoys with kelp hanging down
Employees check a line ribbon kelp, or Alaria marginata, at Seagrove Kelp’s Doyle Bay Farm, six miles outside of Craig. Kelp farms are an example of the sort of green infrastructure that green banks aim to fund. (Nick Jones/Seagrove Kelp)

Two Alaska Native organizations are creating lending institutions dedicated to funding clean energy and environmental infrastructure projects. The Valdez Native Tribe launched Alaska Green Capital, the state’s first green bank, earlier this year and Spruce Root is joining a coalition to form a national green bank.

Joe Arvidson is on the operations team at Alaska Green Capital. He said the bank can access newly available funding through the federal government and from private foundations, and then distribute the money to local businesses and individuals through low-interest loans. 

“There’s a lot of people with really cool ideas, and they have difficulty getting funding,” he said. “This funding can go to people who might not traditionally have been able to get a loan. We have the ability to lose a little bit of money, so we’re not going to be as conservative as a traditional bank. So it could definitely help stimulate the economy.”

Projects could range from carbon-absorbing kelp and oyster farms to hydroelectric plants.

Separately, Spruce Root last month announced a partnership with the Coalition for Green Capital, a national green bank, which is better positioned to leverage federal funding for its several regional stakeholders.

Spruce Root is a nonprofit founded by Sealaska Corporation that supports entrepreneurs in Southeast Alaska, especially rural and Native-owned businesses. Executive Director Alana Peterson said the new money will target renewable energy initiatives to alleviate the high costs of diesel power and transporting goods.

“If we can start to address energy challenges with solutions, then as a region, we can become more resilient,” Peterson said. “And so a Green Bank allows us to set up a financing mechanism to help create those solutions.”

She pointed out that this will also allow the interest from loans to go back into the community.

“If we’re taking out loans within the region, millions of dollars, it would be better if that money was actually being lent out from a local, regional organization, so that the interest earned could actually go back into the region itself, rather than leaving the region altogether,” Peterson said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Mike Dunleavy introduced legislation last month to set up a state green bank, called the Energy Independence Fund, but it failed to pass in the regular session.

Michael Fanelli reported on economics and hosted the statewide morning news at Alaska Public Media. 

Previous articleMan threatened moviegoers at Anchorage theater with screwdriver, police say
Next articleIf Anchorage doesn’t act soon, ‘we’re going to be putting people back in Sullivan’