CUs help NE consumers plug in to states' solar plans

December 21, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (12/21/15)--Credit unions in two New England states are helping consumers gain access to the benefits of solar technology.

In Massachusetts, three credit unions are participating in Gov. Charlie Baker's $30 million initiative designed to provide homeowners with easier access to loans for solar panels.

The program, a partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), connects homeowners interested in solar electricity with solar installers and lenders that have available financing options.

Lenders such as credit unions offer low-interest loans for Massachusetts residents and property owners, including renters and those with moderate incomes or low credit scores.

The program is financed through $30 million of alternative compliance payments from DOER.

Credit unions and other lenders will use the funds to reduce interest rates for homeowners who are borrowing money for solar panels; to establish reserve accounts for loans borrowers with lower credit scores; and to reduce the principal of loans to borrowers with low and moderate incomes.

All participating lenders will offer loans ranging up to $35,000, and some will offer loans up to $60,000.

The credit unions participating in the program are:

  • First Citizens CU, Fairhaven;
  • Shrewsbury (Mass.) CU; and
  • UMassFive CU, Hadley.

In Vermont, Vermont State Employees CU (VSECU), Montpelier, has been awarded a $125,000 grant from the Vermont Public Service Department’s Clean Energy Development Fund to help residents reduce financing costs for investments in community solar arrays.

The funding, available only through the credit union, will be available for a limited time to lower interest rates on loans used to purchase shares in, or portions of, community solar projects (NewsLines Express Dec. 18).

VSECU seeks eligible applicants interested in purchasing shares of a community solar project who will benefit from the program. Residents working with an eligible solar company for their community solar purchase can apply for a loan through VSECU’s VGreen program, which is designed to finance residential energy improvement projects.

Once that financing is secured by eligible borrowers, the Community Solar Loan Program buys down the interest rate, reducing the loan interest rate by up to 1.5%. 

“The loans we offer through our VGreen program are incredibly popular for financing the purchase of residential rooftop and ground mount solar panel installations,” said Laurie Fielder, VSECU VGreen program director. “This grant gives us additional resources to help Vermonters who wish to go solar, but don’t have an ideal site for solar panels, are renters, or just want to benefit from the cost effective alternative of owning panels in a community solar project.

"The program benefits our members, supports Vermont clean energy jobs, and contributes to our efforts to help meet our state’s renewable energy goals.”