By Lynette D. Kemp, VSECU Communications Coordinator
Since 1947, Vermont State Employees Credit Union has worked with Vermonters to improve the quality of their lives. About three years ago, regulators allowed VSECU to open our membership to everyone who lives or works in Vermont.
Because of our commitment to protecting the environment, we have joined with other co-operatives, organizations and businesses to make solar energy more affordable. Since November 2010, VSECU has financed nearly 130 Solar Loans, ranging from small solar PV and hot water systems to community-shared solar projects. Our Solar Loan is a home equity loan, currently at a 0.25 % discount below our home equity loan rates, and we pay all closing costs.
Kim and Bill Laidlaw of Fayston took advantage of the Solar Loan program.
The low-interest Solar Loan, combined with federal tax rebates and state incentives, made the cost of solar electricity affordable for the Laidlaw family. Before they installed the solar system in March 2011, their electric bill ranged from $120 to$150 per month. Today, their bill is about $13 per month.
Kim said the financing process was smooth. “We were sort of walked through each step of the process, and it all happened in a timely and organized way with no hidden costs or financial curveballs. We’ve played a small part in helping move Vermonters toward renewable energy.”
According to Alicia Gant, VSECU’s Solar Loan specialist, “The solar energy industry has introduced many innovations to make solar more efficient, cost-effective and accessible. VSECU’s goal is to work with solar energy vendors to help make it affordable for more Vermonters.”
VSECU works with 15 solar vendors throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. Alicia said she receives calls daily from vendors interested in learning more about VSECU’s Solar Loan product.
Peter and Mary Beth Watt are realizing the benefits of the solar hot water system they installed in their Montpelier home last fall. The system provides domestic hot water at the faucets and fixtures throughout the home. The couple worked with one of the vendors which partnered with VSECU.
“The whole process very easy. Alicia was excellent with the numbers and answered all our questions,” Peter said, adding, “It is an easy, renewable resource, and I wanted to set an example in my community.”
“The savings that we reap from not using oil over the course of the year will approximately equal our payment on the loan,” Mary Beth said. “So it is a win-win situation.”
Recently VSECU began a new collaboration with the Energy Co-op of Vermont, Sunward and the ReSOURCE YouthBuild Program to bring solar hot water systems to communities in the greater Burlington area. The Co-op Solar program, which runs through June 30, 2012, provides the system, installation and financing in one complete package.
Once again, the co-operative model — through VSECU — is helping to move our state towards energy independence and a sustainable future.