Across the United States there are approximately 10,000 mission-driven, community-based lenders serving low-income and underrepresented communities that are helping expand access to clean energy through climate financing.
These lending institutions focus not just on clean energy financing, but they help with first home buying, car purchases as well as financing healthcare clinics, charter schools, houses of worship, and other small businesses that improve the lives of community members.
Climate lending is a relatively new area of focus for these institutions, and in recent years formal training programs have taken shape. One such program is at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), which received $1.2 million in funding in 2022 from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO).
The UNH Carsey School of Public Policy partnered with the Inclusiv Center for Resiliency and Clean Energy to develop the Solar and Green Lending Professional Training progam.
This 8-week virtual program teaches lending professionals how to develop new solar and green lending products, collaborate with partners to provide solar and green financing, and deploy new loans or investments. After completion, the lending professionals continue to receive support through regular workshops, a peer sharing site, and tools like guidebooks and sample loan policies.
Almost 700 students have enrolled in the UNH program since it began three years ago. These students represent nearly 300 community-based financial institutions including community development credit unions, community banks, minority depository institutions, community development funds, and mission-driven green banks. The institutions serve more than 11,000 households, including over 5,000 low- and moderate-income households.
The participants report learning more about their markets and the benefits of solar energy. The program aims to add in the next few years a formal technical assistance component to further support lending institutions as they launch clean energy products. This training also has the potential to help lending institutions get ready to deploy Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The training program’s success inspired SETO’s Community Power Accelerator Learning Lab, which provides training on community solar project development and business models for developers, nonprofits, and other organizations looking to integrate meaningful benefits into their portfolios.
SETO’s learning lab at UNH includes a short, self-paced 101 course as well as a more intensive, seven-week course on the community solar development process. Administered by the Center for Impact Finance at the Carsey School of Public Policy in partnership with the National Community Solar Partnership and is available at no cost to participants. Interested organizations are encouraged to apply.
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