Minnesota’s credit unions have launched a lending platform to make clean energy accessible to more people through educational resources, loans, and investment options.
The Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN), Hiway Federal Credit Union, and Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union, both of Saint Paul, Minn., worked cooperatively to build cu-green.org, which provides clean energy information with a focus on finding qualified contractors, utility incentives, and below-market rate financing for installing residential solar electric generating systems.
“This has been a cooperative effort by both the network and our credit unions, and that's really made it fun and worthwhile,” said Mara Humphrey, MnCUN vice president of government affairs and association services.
The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment Climate Smart Municipalities initially contacted the league. The institute pairs Minnesota municipalities with climate-smart communities in Germany to accelerate progress toward a cleaner and more efficient energy footprint.
In April 2016, five communities—Duluth, Elk River, Morris, Rochester, and Warren—were chosen to participate in the program.
“We’ve reached the point where solar energy improvements make financial sense and financial beneficial to communities, including credit union members,” Humphrey says. “The ‘U’ was looking for funding partners. We thought we could help.”
The Minnesota Credit Union Foundation received a grant from the Carolyn Foundation to support the development and implementation of a Clean Energy Lending and Informational Clearinghouse for the state’s 1.7 million credit union members.
Humphrey says the league and credit unions have used the money to develop the website and market the program. Credit unions, meanwhile, have started to put loans on the books.
“Our goal is to increase market share for credit unions, and this really fits into how we help credit unions identify underserved areas that they might not even know they have,” Humphrey says. “It’s one way we can offer new and different products to target new credit union members and keep existing members interested and excited.”