Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you don’t see your question listed here in this section, please send it to us via our contact form.

About Clean Energy Credit Union

What is a credit union?

Credit unions are democratically owned, not-for-profit financial cooperatives that serve an identified community (rather than the general public). The people and organizations within the identified community are eligible to become “members” or “member-owners” of the credit union. Credit unions are designed to leverage the financial strength of their members in order to provide financial services to one another without the need to make a profit from these transactions. As a member-owner of a credit union, you have the ability to take out loans, make deposits, run for the board of directors, and cast a vote in elections (on a one-vote-per-member basis).

When a credit union is federally chartered, like Clean Energy Credit Union, it is technically a 501(c)(1) tax-exempt organization that’s regulated by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and receives deposit insurance from the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF).

While credit unions are similar to banks, there are also many important differences. To learn more about how credit unions differ from banks, see this FAQ on the subject.

Additional Resources

Why should I join Clean Energy Credit Union?

By joining, you’ll gain access to outstanding clean energy loans and investment opportunities. Every dollar deposited in Clean Energy Credit Union earns interest while being used to help you and/or other members finance a clean energy product or service. Our unique clean energy loan terms are among the best available in the market.

In addition, you’ll help us achieve Clean Energy Credit Union’s vision of a world where everyone can participate in the clean energy movement. We’ll do this by serving the following important marketplace needs:

  • Providing excellent loan terms for solar electric systems, electric vehicles, home energy efficiency improvements, and other clean energy products and services;
  • Offering federally insured opportunities to invest in clean energy that are less risky than other clean energy investment products available on the market today; and
  • Providing these services as a not-for-profit, cooperative financial institution (not a megabank) that will remain dedicated to its mission over the long term.

By reducing the cost of financing, Clean Energy Credit Union reduces the price associated with using clean energy, thereby making it more accessible to a broader population than it otherwise would be. By offering federally insured (i.e. low-risk) investment opportunities with low minimum thresholds, regular people – not just big financiers – are able to leverage their dollars to support clean energy, thereby increasing the volume of funds available to help finance the clean energy movement.

Ultimately, our goal is to make it easier for everyone to use and to invest in clean energy in order to help protect our environment and improve our economy.

How does Clean Energy Credit Union operate?

In order to offer competitive interest rates, Clean Energy Credit Union emphasizes a lean business model. It operates solely online and via mobile devices, and has no brick-and-mortar branch offices. It offers phone and online support to assist members with questions, and it streamlines member communications by corresponding electronically (also thereby saving any paper associated with hard-copy account statements). All of these measures contribute to an efficient and cost-effective operation, thus keeping overhead as low as possible. Savings in overhead are then passed through to members in the form of better interest rates.

What services does Clean Energy Credit Union currently offer?

Initially, Clean Energy Credit Union is offering savings accounts, CDs, a solar electric system loan, a clean energy vehicle loan, and online/mobile banking services. Click here to learn more about our Savings Products and Loan Products.

Our credit union won’t likely have the breadth of offerings that would be required to replace your primary financial institution in its first two years, or until 2019. So, for example, since we’re not initially offering checking accounts, we’re hoping that you’ll move your savings account to Clean Energy Credit Union while retaining your current checking account. You would then be able to easily transfer funds between your accounts in Clean Energy Credit Union and your other financial institution via a free ACH transfer on your computer or mobile device. Click here to learn more about ACH transfers.

How do I join Clean Energy Credit Union?

Clean Energy Credit Union, like all credit unions, is required to have a “field of membership,” which can be loosely defined as a common association or affiliation among its members. Clean Energy Credit Union’s field of membership consists of:

  • Members of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (both individuals and organizations);
  • Members of the immediate family or household of an ASES member or an existing credit union member; and
  • Employees and volunteers of Clean Energy Credit Union.

In other words, in order to become a member of our credit union, one must first join ASES or have an immediate family or household member who has already joined either ASES or Clean Energy Credit Union. An individual membership in ASES currently costs $39, and not only gains you entry to the Credit Union, but supports a longstanding advocate for the advancement of solar energy. Click here to learn more about ASES, or visit their website at ases.org.

After confirming your eligibility, you would then open a "share account" (i.e. savings account) with a $5 minimum deposit which would serve as your ownership share in Clean Energy Credit Union. Once someone becomes a member of the Credit Union, they are an eligible “member for life.” Click here to join Clean Energy Credit Union.

What is the American Solar Energy Society (ASES)?

Established in 1954, ASES is one of the nation’s leading associations of solar advocates and professionals and is the U.S. section of the International Solar Energy Society (ISES). Its mission is “to enable a 100% renewable energy society.” In addition to publishing Solar Today Magazine, ASES organizes a national conference and a national solar home tour each year. ASES has regional chapters in 41 states throughout the U.S., seven student chapters, and nine technical divisions for shared technical research among solar professionals and academics. For more information, visit ases.org.

ASES serves as the 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor for Clean Energy Credit Union and also as our founding “field of membership” organization. Click here to learn more about our field of membership.

How can I best support Clean Energy Credit Union?

First, join the Credit Union and open a savings account. You may already have both a checking account and a savings account at your primary financial institution. Since Clean Energy Credit Union isn’t initially offering checking accounts, we hope that you’ll move your savings account to our credit union while retaining your current checking account. You would then be able to easily transfer funds between your accounts in Clean Energy Credit Union and your other financial institution via a free ACH transfer on your computer or mobile device. Click here to learn more about ACH transfers.

Second, buy a “clean energy CD” (certificate of deposit). Clean energy CDs are just like other CDs except that all of your money is used to provide clean energy loans to other members. Our clean energy CDs are designed to pay an interest rate similar to a U.S. Treasury Bond; so, they’re a great investment opportunity that yields monthly income, are federally insured (up to $250k per person or organization), promote clean energy, and protect the environment. What other investment can do that?!

Third, apply for a loan for a clean energy product or service. Click here to learn more about our Loan Products.

Lastly, make a tax-deductible donation to support the Credit Union’s growth via our 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor, the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). To learn more about ASES, click here. While Clean Energy Credit Union is a self-sustaining 501(c)(1) organization, with the help of donations, our credit union will expand its operations, positive impact, and clean energy lending faster than otherwise. Since credit unions can’t have stockholders, we therefore can’t raise money in that way. So, credit unions can only fund themselves with either donations or retained earnings (i.e. profit). Furthermore, due to federal regulations, credit unions must maintain a certain amount of capital reserves at all times. The end result of this regulation is that for every $1 in donations our credit unions receive, it allows us to accept $14 of federally insured member deposits and then lend out the combined $15 for clean energy loans. Your donation would therefore be leveraged by 14-to-1 to help us fulfill our mission, and your donation essentially becomes part of a revolving loan fund whereby we can reuse it to make clean energy loans again and again in perpetuity. Donations can be made here or by mailing a check with “Clean Energy Credit Union initiative” in the memo line and made payable to:

American Solar Energy Society

2525 Arapahoe Ave, Ste E4-253

Boulder, CO 80302

Upon receiving donations of $250 or more, ASES will provide a receipt for your records.

Is my donation to Clean Energy Credit Union tax deductible?

Yes. All donations to Clean Energy Credit Union can be made via the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), which is our 501(c)(3) “fiscal sponsor.” This means that our credit union is a project that ASES supports and which is aligned with its charitable purpose as a 501(c)(3). So, any donation to ASES can be designated to support Clean Energy Credit Union project and 98-99% of your donation will be transferred within the same month. Why only 98%-99%? This is because ASES keeps an administrative fee, which goes towards the staff and infrastructure required to support the Credit Union, which equals 1%-2% (depending on the volume of donations that they process on our behalf). A 1%-2% administrative fee is a very good rate when it comes to 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsorships, and we are grateful to ASES for all of their support, encouragement, and assistance in pursuing our shared missions!! Click here to learn more about ASES.

What is the environmental impact of each $1 that I donate or deposit with Clean Energy Credit Union?

For each $1 in donations that the Credit Union receives, we can accept $14 in deposits from other members. This can be combined into $15 worth of clean energy loans. If, for example, we raise $1,000 in donations, this could allow – and be combined with – $14,000 in savings account deposits. In turn, this combined amount could translate into a $15,000 loan for an approximately 6,000-watt solar PV system (assuming a 30% solar tax credit that results in a 70% loan-to-value) that would generate over 8,000 kWh of solar electricity and prevent over 12,000 tons of CO2 per year. And as this loan is paid off, the money can be reused and loaned out again and again like a revolving loan fund.

Can I invest in Clean Energy Credit Union? How is it funded?

Yes, you can “invest” in Clean Energy Credit Union by either making a savings account deposit or purchasing a “clean energy CD.” Any such deposits or CDs are insured by the federal government up to $250k per person or per organization. The Credit Union does not have “owners” or “investors” in the same way that a for-profit bank would. Instead, the Credit Union is democratically owned by all of its members. Members then elect the Credit Union’s volunteer Board of Directors on a one-vote-per-member basis and earn “dividends” or interest on their deposits.

In addition, the federal government requires that all banks and credit unions be capitalized with $1 in “net worth” or “net assets” for every $14 that they can accept in federally insured deposits. As 501(c)(1) not-for-profit organizations, federally chartered credit unions like ours can only build their net worth or net assets in two ways: (1) via retained earnings (i.e. profit); and (2) via donations from supporters. Making a donation to a credit union is very similar to making a donation to a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In the first few years, we intend to raise over $5M in donations and accept $50M in deposits. Click here if you’d like to make a donation.

How are credit unions different from banks?

While credit unions have some similarities to banks, there are also lots of important differences. This table helps to compare and contrast between the two models:

BANK CREDIT UNION (CU)

Can serve the general public

Can only serve its members who must be drawn from a specific, identified community (aka its “field of membership”)

Can sell stock and accept equity investments

Cannot sell stock or accept equity investments

Owned by its stockholders in proportion to stock ownership

Democratically owned and controlled by its members on a one-member-one-vote basis

Primarily exists to maximize financial returns for its stockholders

Primarily exists to serve its members

Earnings (via declared dividends) are paid only to stockholders

Earnings are paid back to members via higher savings rates and lower loan rates

Must pay taxes

Is tax exempt; does not pay taxes

Deposits are federally insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to $250k per customer

Deposits are federally insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) up to $250k per member

Board members are paid

Board members are volunteers and cannot be paid

Click here for more information about credit unions.

What’s unique about Clean Energy Credit Union?

Clean Energy Credit Union represents a unique combination of the following:

  • It’s a federally chartered credit union that:
    • Is a tax-exempt 501(c)(1);
    • Is democratically owned and governed by its members;
    • Has no stockholders;
    • Offers federally insured deposits (up to $250k per person or per organization)
  • It’s the only credit union that’s focused solely on clean energy lending and environmental stewardship:
    • This focus is – and always will be – part of our mission and organizational DNA;
    • Every dollar deposited earns interest while being used to help you and/or other members finance a clean energy product or service via clean energy loan terms that are among the best available in the market;
    • We specialize in having clean energy market expertise and an ability to adapt to ongoing market dynamics;
  • It’s one of the few Online/Mobile only financial institutions with:
    • No brick-and-mortar branch offices;
    • Lean operations and low overhead costs;
    • Operational savings that are passed through to members in the form of better interest rates and terms.

How does Clean Energy Credit Union benefit each of its stakeholders?

Members have a new way to participate in the clean energy movement via a values-aligned financial institution which they democratically own.

Homeowners are better able to afford clean energy via friendlier loan terms and a lower cost of capital.

Investors have access to low-risk, federally-insured, interest-bearing, impact investment opportunities that directly support clean energy and the environment.

The Environment benefits from more clean energy and less pollution.

The Economy benefits from more market share for the “clean energy” and “cooperative” economies.

Do I have to work with one of the Credit Union’s partners for my clean energy project?

No. When you apply for a clean energy loan with Clean Energy Credit Union, you can work with any contractor, vendor, or service-provider that you choose. However, the Credit Union offers special loan offerings via its partners because they, in return, provide multiple value-added services to the Credit Union that reduce our costs and overhead. Click here to learn more about our partners.

Are the Credit Union’s solar installation partners reputable and qualified?

Yes, in order to partner with Clean Energy Credit Union, companies must have an excellent reputation and track record. Click here to learn more about our partners.

My company offers clean energy products and services – how can I partner with Clean Energy Credit Union?

Clean Energy Credit Union is currently seeking the following types of partnerships:

  • Auto dealers that sell electric cars and electric motorcycles (both new and used);
  • Companies that perform residential energy efficiency improvements (e.g. weatherization and insulation) and that sell energy-saving or energy-efficient equipment (e.g. heat pumps, furnaces, evaporative coolers, triple-pane windows, etc.)
  • Auto dealers that sell electric cars and electric motorcycles (both new and used);
  • Companies that perform residential energy efficiency improvements (e.g. weatherization and insulation) and that sell energy-saving or energy-efficient equipment (e.g. heat pumps, furnaces, evaporative coolers, triple-pane windows, etc.)

If you’re interested in exploring a partnership with us, please contact us at info@cleanenergycu.org. Please know that we have a strong preference for working with like-minded organizations, fellow cooperatives, certified B-Corps (see link below), organizations that typically partner with credit unions, and organizations that are actively involved in their communities and/or the environmental movement.

NOTE: We are not currently seeking the following types of partnerships (but will likely seek them at some point in the future):

  • Solar electric contractors;
  • Solar hot water contractors;
  • Bicycle shops that offer electric-assist bicycles;
  • Geothermal heat pump contractors.
  • Solar electric contractors;
  • Solar hot water contractors;
  • Bicycle shops that offer electric-assist bicycles;
  • Geothermal heat pump contractors.

To learn more about certified B-Corporations, please visit bcorporation.net and wikipedia.org.

Financial Services with Clean Energy Credit Union

What services does Clean Energy Credit Union currently offer?

Initially, Clean Energy Credit Union is offering savings accounts, CDs, a solar electric system loan, a clean energy vehicle loan, and online/mobile banking services. Click here to learn more about our Savings Products and Loan Products.

Our credit union won’t likely have the breadth of offerings that would be required to replace your primary financial institution in its first two years, or until 2019. So, for example, since we’re not initially offering checking accounts, we’re hoping that you’ll move your savings account to Clean Energy Credit Union while retaining your current checking account. You would then be able to easily transfer funds between your accounts in Clean Energy Credit Union and your other financial institution via a free ACH transfer on your computer or mobile device. Click here to learn more about ACH transfers.

When will checking accounts, ATM cards, mortgages, and other services be available?

Clean Energy Credit Union is currently planning to offer the following products and services by 2019:

  • Checking accounts
  • ATM cards
  • Credit cards
  • Loans for home energy efficiency improvements
  • Mortgages for net-zero energy or energy efficient homes
  • Home equity lines of credit

We also plan to offer loans for other clean energy products and services such as bicycles, electric-assist bicycles, geothermal heat pumps, and so on, but the timeline is currently unknown. We may be able to accelerate this timeline if incoming donations to the Credit Union exceed projections, thereby allowing us to invest in new staff, capacity, and infrastructure.

Please sign up for our newsletter or like us on Facebook to receive periodic updates.

How do I join Clean Energy Credit Union?

Clean Energy Credit Union, like all credit unions, is required to have a “field of membership,” which can be loosely defined as a common association or affiliation among its members. Clean Energy Credit Union’s field of membership consists of:

  • Members of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (both individuals and organizations);
  • Members of the immediate family or household of an ASES member or an existing credit union member; and
  • Employees and volunteers of Clean Energy Credit Union.

In other words, in order to become a member of our credit union, one must first join ASES or have an immediate family or household member who has already joined either ASES or Clean Energy Credit Union. An individual membership in ASES currently costs $39, and not only gains you entry to the Credit Union, but supports a longstanding advocate for the advancement of solar energy. Click here to learn more about ASES, or visit their website at ases.org.

After confirming your eligibility, you would then open a "share account" (i.e. savings account) with a $5 minimum deposit which would serve as your ownership share in Clean Energy Credit Union. Once someone becomes a member of the Credit Union, they are an eligible “member for life.” Click here to join Clean Energy Credit Union.

What is the environmental impact of each $1 that I donate or deposit with Clean Energy Credit Union?

For each $1 in donations that the Credit Union receives, we can accept $14 in deposits from other members. This can be combined into $15 worth of clean energy loans. If, for example, we raise $1,000 in donations, this could allow – and be combined with – $14,000 in savings account deposits. In turn, this combined amount could translate into a $15,000 loan for an approximately 6,000-watt solar PV system (assuming a 30% solar tax credit that results in a 70% loan-to-value) that would generate over 8,000 kWh of solar electricity and prevent over 12,000 tons of CO2 per year. And as this loan is paid off, the money can be reused and loaned out again and again like a revolving loan fund.

Are my deposits federally insured?

Yes, because we are a federally chartered credit union, all deposits will be federally insured up to the allowable limits (e.g. up to $250k per person or per organization). This makes opening a savings account or buying a "clean energy CD" far less risky than any other kind of investment in the clean energy sector. Furthermore, with low minimum investment thresholds, regular people—not just big financiers—will be able to leverage their dollars to support clean energy through safe, sound investments.

All deposits in Clean Energy Credit Union are insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). According to Wikipedia: “[The NCUSIF] is administered by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) for the purpose of providing deposit insurance to protect deposits of credit union members at insured institutions in the United States. It was created in 1970 shortly after the creation of the NCUA as an independent regulator of credit unions. The NCUSIF is funded completely by participating credit unions, and no taxpayer dollars have ever been used to bail out a credit union. The NCUSIF is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.”

What is an ACH transfer?

An ACH transfer refers to any electronic movement of money between different financial institutions that goes through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network, one of the biggest U.S. payment systems that has been around for almost 40 years. ACH transfers are commonly used for online bill pay, and direct deposit, and transferring funds between financial institutions. For example, PayPal and Venmo, both use the ACH network. ACH transfers are more convenient and less expensive than wire transfers, which typically incur fees both the sending and receiving financial institutions.

Since Clean Energy Credit Union isn’t initially offering checking accounts, we’re hoping that you’ll move your savings account to Clean Energy Credit Union while retaining your current checking account. You would then be able to easily transfer funds between your accounts in Clean Energy Credit Union and your other financial institution via a free ACH transfer on your computer or mobile device.

Is there a cost and/or a time delay when conducting an ACH transfer?

At Clean Energy Credit Union, ACH transfers are free for members. They are also typically free for at other financial institutions. However, it can take 1-3 days for transferred funds to be received and available for withdrawal.

Am I required to maintain a minimum balance in my savings account?

Yes, you are required to maintain a $5 minimum balance in your account.

What is the minimum amount required to open a Clean Energy CD?

$1,000

Do you offer Clean Energy CDs with terms shorter than 10 years?

No, not currently, but in the future we are considering the possibility of offering shorter terms on our Clean Energy CDs. Our current term is 10 years for the following reasons: (a) we want to lock in sufficient deposits at longer terms that resemble those of clean energy loans (as clean energy projects tend to require interest rates that are fixed over a longer period of time); and (b) in this current low-interest environment, we wanted to offer long-term clean energy investment products that could pay a higher yield than short-term products.

How are interest payments made on Clean Energy CDs?

Interest payments are made on a monthly basis and are automatically deposited into your Clean Energy Credit Union savings account.

Can I set up automatic bill payment from my savings account?

Currently, no, but this is a feature that we plan on adding in the future.

Do you offer an app for my mobile device?

Yes, you can access your accounts from any computer or mobile device. You can search for the app, “Clean Energy Credit Union,” on your app store.

How often are account statements sent out?

If you only have a savings accounts or a Clean Energy CD, account statements are sent out at the beginning of each quarter. If you also have any loan activity, a CD that is maturing, or a checking account (coming soon), statements will be sent out at the beginning of each month.

What is the Credit Union’s policy for paper vs electronic account statements?

We strongly discourage paper account statements for two reasons: (1) protecting the environment is an important part of our mission, so wherever possible we try to reduce the use of paper as well as the need for shipping and transportation; and (2) Clean Energy Credit Union emphasizes a lean business model so that we can pass through the savings to our members in the form of better interest rates.

That being said, if you absolutely must have paper account statements, you can still sign up for them at the cost of $7 per statement.

If I need help with my accounts, can I get in touch with a real, live person?

Yes, you can either click on the “Chat” bottom at the top and bottom of each page on our website, or you can call us at 999-999-9999.

How are online/mobile banking transactions kept secure?

Our vendors and software for online/mobile banking functionality are among the best in the credit union industry, and they work with hundreds of credit unions throughout the U.S. In addition to providing us with secure software platform, they also host our servers and keep them secure. In addition, regardless of which vendors and software we use for our online/mobile banking activities, all deposits in Clean Energy Credit Union are federally insured up to $250k per person and per organization.

Where can I use my Clean Energy Credit Union ATM card?

Currently, Clean Energy Credit Union does not offer ATM cards, but we are planning to offer them by 2019.

Are there fees or other usage limits for my Clean Energy Credit Union ATM card?

Currently, Clean Energy Credit Union does not offer ATM cards, but we are planning to offer them by 2019.

How is “clean energy” defined by Clean Energy Credit Union?

Clean energy products, technologies, and services are those that utilize renewable energy, reduce energy consumption, improve energy efficiency, and/or improve energy consciousness while also reducing pollution, greenhouse gases, water usage, and/or toxic waste. Some examples of what is included in this definition are: electric vehicles, insulation, weatherproofing, net zero energy homes, geothermal heat pumps, and electric-assist bicycles.

Unlike typical loans, clean energy loans all reduce the cost of living for borrowers while also decreasing their environmental footprint!!

Additional Resources

How can I find out if there are incentives available in my area for clean energy products and services?

We recommend checking the Database for State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE): dsireusa.org. We also recommend asking your clean energy contractor, vendor, or service provider as they can typically help you explore what incentives may be available in your area.

Do I have to work with one of the Credit Union’s partners for my clean energy project?

No. When you apply for a clean energy loan with Clean Energy Credit Union, you can work with any contractor, vendor, or service-provider that you choose. However, the Credit Union offers special loan offerings via its partners because they, in return, provide multiple value-added services to the Credit Union that reduce our costs and overhead. Click here to learn more about our partners.

Are the Credit Union’s solar installation partners reputable and qualified?

Yes, in order to partner with Clean Energy Credit Union, companies must have an excellent reputation and track record. Click here to learn more about our partners.

My company offers clean energy products and services – how can I partner with Clean Energy Credit Union?

Clean Energy Credit Union is currently seeking the following types of partnerships:

If you’re interested in exploring a partnership with us, please contact us at info@cleanenergycu.org. Please know that we have a strong preference for working with like-minded organizations, fellow cooperatives, certified B-Corps (see link below), organizations that typically partner with credit unions, and organizations that are actively involved in their communities and/or the environmental movement.

NOTE: We are not currently seeking the following types of partnerships (but will likely seek them at some point in the future):

To learn more about certified B-Corporations, please visit bcorporation.net and wikipedia.org.

What is the environmental impact of each $1 that I donate or deposit with Clean Energy Credit Union?

For each $1 in donations that the Credit Union receives, we can accept $14 in deposits from other members. This can be combined into $15 worth of clean energy loans. If, for example, we raise $1,000 in donations, this could allow – and be combined with – $14,000 in savings account deposits. In turn, this combined amount could translate into a $15,000 loan for an approximately 6,000-watt solar PV system (assuming a 30% solar tax credit that results in a 70% loan-to-value) that would generate over 8,000 kWh of solar electricity and prevent over 12,000 tons of CO2 per year. And as this loan is paid off, the money can be reused and loaned out again and again like a revolving loan fund.