Spotlight: Clean Energy Credit Union

An Interview with
CEO Terri Mickelsen

For those who don’t know Clean Energy Credit Union, can you tell us what kind of loans you make and what makes them unique?

Clean Energy Credit Union is not your traditional credit union in that we are focused solely on providing loans and deposit services that promote clean energy. The loans we offer help people afford clean energy products such as electric vehicles, electric bicycles, solar energy systems, geothermal systems and other green home improvements. Our goal is to make it easier for people to join the clean energy movement, whether it’s getting access to the best possible loan for your clean energy project or hosting your checking and savings account where your deposits will only be used to finance clean energy.

As an online-only financial institution, we avoid the overhead expenses that come from branch locations while serving our members throughout the country through electronic means. This includes online and mobile banking, free access to MoneyPass ATM networks—and for those who do want to visit a physical location—shared branching services through thousands of partner credit union branches across the U.S. Being online-only also allows us to serve our members anywhere in the country.

Last but not least, I think it’s important to mention that, unlike traditional banks, we are a nonprofit cooperative that is democratically owned and controlled by our members on a one-vote-per-member basis. We serve our mission and our members rather than stockholders. We are also designated as a “low income credit union,” which means more than half of our members are low-income. Our vision is a world where everyone can participate in the clean energy movement.

Tell us a little about the history of Clean Energy CU: When was it founded and what sparked the idea?

Clean Energy CU was founded in 2017 by a group of self-proclaimed “clean energy geeks” who saw a need for affordable financing for clean energy projects. At the time, most financial institutions weren’t offering clean energy loans and there were only a few places where someone could get a solar loan or a green home improvement loan – and unfortunately, those were way too expensive.

Our founders saw the opportunity to reduce costs for financing so that more people could afford to go solar or make their home more energy efficient. They also saw the opportunity for people to have their checking accounts and money market accounts at a federally insured financial institution where their money would be used to finance clean energy instead of fossil fuel projects or the latest “big bank scandal.”

If people have interest in getting a loan from Clean Energy CU what is the best way to engage with you?

They can apply for a loan online through our website at cleanenergycu.org. Applicants can be preapproved for a loan in minutes and our loan team is available to answer any questions via phone, chat, or email.

Tell us, how investors can help the mission of Clean Energy CU?

One of the best ways to help our mission is for investors to take advantage of our many deposit services: savings and checking accounts, CDs, IRAs and money market accounts. Depositing funds into a Clean Energy Credit Union account helps us finance other members’ clean energy projects, thereby benefiting both our members and the environment.

What are the longer-term plans for Clean Energy CU? How would you like to grow and expand?

We’ll continue to listen to our members and offer additional services that fit their needs. This will likely include mortgages for green homes as well as loans for businesses and nonprofits that are pursuing clean energy projects. We also want to continue to partner with communities and foundations to expand our community loan discount programs which help make clean energy more affordable to a wide range of individuals. For example, we’ll soon be launching programs that provide a rate discount on our clean energy loans for low-income borrowers and borrowers from marginalized communities. Who can be a member of Clean Energy CU? What kind of groups do you partner with? We partner with a variety of environmental and clean energy-focused organizations that are aligned with our mission. Members of the organizations listed below are eligible to join our credit union.

We are continuously adding partners to this list. If readers think their organization would be a good fit, we ask that they please reach out to discuss.

What else should people know about Clean Energy CU?

Our mission goes beyond our own credit union. Credit unions are cooperatives and are known for people helping people. Following this ideal we frequently help other financial institutions— particularly other credit unions—learn about clean energy lending. Ultimately, we want to help other financial institutions get into this space as we need “all hands-on deck” to finance the growing clean energy movement.

See full 2021 Social Impact Report – Natural Investments.

This publication is distributed to clients and friends of Natural Investments, LLC (NI). NI is an investment adviser registered with the SEC. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to contain recommendations or solicit sales of any specific investment. Authors, representatives, or related persons of NI may own securities mentioned in here.

Photo credit: The Thapa family stands in front of their home where they had a solar electric system installed on the roof thanks to financing from Clean Energy Credit Union

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Brady Quirk-Garvan

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