Studies show that housing cost burden and energy burden often go hand in hand. Most low-to-moderate income (LMI) households carry a substantial energy burden, meaning their utility costs – and therefore, their overall cost of living – consume a higher proportion of their income. In fact, low-income households spend about three times more on energy costs than other households. Recently, community development stakeholders in the nation’s capital have put more focus on one solution in particular: sunshine. Solar power reduces energy expenses, therefore allowing residents to spend their money on other necessities, such as food, childcare, transportation, and health.

VCC is addressing the energy burden challenge by participating in a new initiative in Washington, D.C. called Solar for All. The program is administered by the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment, in collaboration with the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU), and it has a goal to provide free solar energy to 100,000 households, dramatically reducing residents’ utility costs and protecting underserved communities in the face of climate change.

To date, VCC’s unique solar financing program has provided loan capital to support free solar energy to over 750 households in D.C through the Solar for All program. Without VCC’s flexible loan capital, several solar installation borrowers would be unable to secure financing, as most lenders only focus on loans over $1 million. Bill Greenleaf, VCC’s Clean Energy Lending Manager, spent the better half of 2021 working with DC Green Bank and Flywheel Development to bring home a $1.8 million permanent loan facility for a community solar project in Ward 7 of Washington, D.C. . – with VCC and DC Green Bank splitting the total value of the loan equally. The financing partnership with DC Green Bank was mutually beneficial, in part because VCC was able to provide low-rate capital and DC Green Bank was able to take more term and merchant risk, delivering an affordable and attractive financing package for the borrower. This Solar for All project will enable a community solar installation in the Fairfax Village community in Southeast D.C. to reduce energy bills by half for residents over the next 15 years. Additionally, the deal will reduce CO2-equivalent by about 1,000 tons annually.

To further advance the positive impacts of this program, VCC partnered with sustainable banking service Ando, whose initial $7 million investment allowed VCC to provide direct funding for a solar contractor in Washington D.C. By banking with Ando, its customers and their deposits are helping the small business contractor deliver solar energy to D.C. residents.

Our solar financing activity is on an upward trajectory as we look to the future. We anticipate additional loans to enable solar installations for LMI neighborhoods this year and in 2023, which will continue to alleviate some of the pandemic’s economic impact on those residents. Given the Commonwealth of Virginia’s commitment to transition to renewable energy by 2050, VCC hopes this is only the beginning of our support of solar and other renewable energy projects.

Learn more about our partnerships with Solar for All and its various stakeholders here.