Enhancing Solar Finance Capabilities Among Community-Based Financial Institutions

  • image of solar panels

Solar is a powerful tool for economic development, community resiliency, and energy affordability and reliability for communities. But that is not all: solar projects provide a strong business opportunity for investors. Solar finance is an investment in proven technology, with decreasing costs and improving project economics in most markets.

In many respects, solar finance is a mature market, with a wide ecosystem of investors providing a mix of debt, equity, and tax-credit equity in the market. However, community-based lenders (CBLs) – such as Credit Unions, Community Development Financial Institutions, and Community Banks – have a unique role to play within this market. Not all households are participating equally in the move to clean energy, and there is a real risk that many populations will be left behind, including low-income families and people of color. CBLs have the combination of deep community relationships and underwriting experience that can help democratize access to solar power, if they can be supported with the right relationships, the right policy supports, and training and knowledge transfer.

Partners and Funders

inclusiv logo
u.s. department of energy logo
william and flora hewlett foundation logo

This project seeks to engage community-based financial institutions in solar finance, and ultimately to help lenders invest “deeper into their community,” through three pillars:

  1. Training & Support, including accessible online trainings, synchronous peer support workshops, coaching and knowledge sharing.
  2. Collaborative Infrastructure Development, which may range from simply encouraging partnerships and collaborations between lenders, to developing and growing investment vehicles or funds, operating platforms, or secondary markets that make it easier for community-based lenders to engage in solar finance.
  3. Movement-Building, including an industry analysis of current CBL involvement in solar finance, a series of cross-sectoral convenings, and identification and collaborative efforts to drive policy change and resource development.

The project is funded through a three-year $1.29M U.S. Department of Energy cooperative agreement with the University of New Hampshire and a $400,000 Hewlett Foundation grant to Inclusiv to launch its new Center for Resilience and Renewable Energy. Major project partners are Coastal Enterprise, Inc. (through its subsidiary, Bright Community Capital) and Inclusive Prosperity Capital. Learn more