In collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and other partners, the Minnesota Credit Union Foundation has launched CU Green, a program to ease the process of getting solar installed for the state’s 1.7 million credit union members. The program offers rates as low as 3.86%, terms as long as 15 years, and funding for up to 100% of the project cost (but not all three at once) for residential clients. There’s an additional $10 million specifically set aside for business and property owners in the commercial PACE program.
CU Green’s page notes that customers will also get a 0.25% below-market-rate bonus “in recognition of solar’s many benefits.” Solar power, and energy efficiency, generally increase the customer’s monthly cash flow.
The seeds of the program were developed through international outreach to five German cities, and grants from the Carolyn Foundation and the St Paul Port Authority, and CU Green notes it recently put out a request for local contractors to submit themselves to be part of the recommended contractors list. Additionally, bankers have been educated on incentive structures.
Along with developing finance programs, the credit unions are implementing their own energy efficiency improvements (and all with a next step of rooftop solar):
- LED lights at all three facilities
- Next step: Rooftop solar
- LEDs at all new facilities
- Next steps: Retrofit LEDs, H2O and rooftop solar
- Energy audit
- Next step: Rooftop solar
Related to this program, is a documentary also put together by the team at the UMN Institute on the Environment, Climate Smart: Cities Working Together. The 26 minute video won the Regional Emmy® award for Outstanding Achievement in the science/environment category.
Minnesota credit unions are not the only financial institutions that are noting the benefits of energy efficiency, and rewarding it. A recent Bank of the West advertisement on Instagram offered customers a lower rate on a home equity line of credit when they make energy efficient home improvements.
— Orion Coates (@SoNNYCoATeS) October 10, 2018
The biggest challenge of solar power is the up front cash. Much like the transition from renting to owning a house and getting a mortgage, buying your electricity up front for 25+ years, versus the subscription model we’re used to, requires both an evolution of thought and access to capital.
The residential solar lease companies get it. The investors looking to own utility scale projects get it. The utilities get it. And now, that knowledge and expertise is being delivered to 1.7 million Minnesota locals.
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