Public demand for clean energy is growing rapidly, but because clean energy products typically require a large upfront cost, there is a growing need for affordable financing. Additionally, most consumers who can’t buy clean energy products (e.g. urban dwellers who don’t need a car or who don’t own a home to install solar panels on), don’t have a way to support people who can. Investing in publicly traded clean energy companies is risky, and stock prices are extremely volatile. Investing in privately held clean energy companies is limited to “sophisticated” and “accredited” investors (i.e. wealthy investors).
That’s why a passionate group of volunteers started Clean Energy Credit Union, a new financial institution that focuses solely on providing loans that help people afford clean energy products and services such as solar electric systems, electric vehicles, geothermal heat pumps, electric bicycles, high efficiency HVAC systems, and other green home improvements. This two-minute video explains how it works. Clean Energy Credit Union is a not-for-profit financial services cooperative (aka federally chartered credit union) which is democratically owned and controlled by its members on a one-vote-per-member basis.
Clean Energy Credit Union wants a world where everyone can participate in the clean energy movement, and the credit union makes this possible by: (1) making it easier for everyone to afford to use clean energy (by offering clean energy loans with amazing terms); and (2) making it easier for everyone to invest in clean energy (by offering federally insured savings accounts and clean energy CDs whereby the deposits are solely used to help someone else pursue their clean energy project).
Unlike a bank, which can raise money from stockholders, a start-up credit union raises money through donations. For every $1 that we raise in donations, federal banking regulations allow Clean Energy Credit Union to accept $14 in federally insured deposits from “the crowd” (i.e. environmentally conscious people and organizations who are opening checking/savings accounts and buying “clean energy CDs”). Then we can loan out the combined $15 to help others afford to pursue their clean energy projects.
Since receiving its federal charter in late 2017 and launching in early 2018, Clean Energy Credit Union has made over 2,300 clean energy loans in just its first two years of operation. We want to continue scaling up our operations and impact – which includes teaching other credit unions and banks how to do clean energy lending like us.
Clean Energy Credit Union benefited tremendously from the early support of Colorado-based Rachel’s Network Member Molly Ross, when it launched its operations in early 2018. Molly said, “When I first heard about Clean Energy Credit Union, I thought it was a great idea whose time had come, and I became one of its earliest supporters. Their mission of making clean energy affordable to everyone really appeals to me, and is in line with my vision and goals as well. It’s a terrific, visionary organization!” To learn more, visit cleanenergycu.org.
Blake Jones is the Volunteer Board Chair of Clean Energy Credit Union and a Co-Founder of Namasté Solar, an employee-owned cooperative and certified B-Corp based in Colorado. He can be reached at email@example.com.