SELF’s mission is to rebuild and empower underserved communities by providing access to affordable and innovative financing for sustainable property improvements, with the primary focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and climate resilience in low- and moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods. We strive to create positive social, economic, and environmental impacts by helping people improve the health, safety, and quality of life in their homes while reducing operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
Operational since 2011 with $11.5 million in financing, Florida Solar Energy Loan Fund (SELF) was created with $2.9 million in seed funding from the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Neighborhood Program to kickstart local clean energy financing programs. Currently, SELF raises capital through 23 investors, including governments and funds and impact investors.
Its Green Community Development Financial Institution model provides low-cost loans based on a formula that goes beyond standard credit scores. The customized underwriting evaluation process takes into account customers’ actual ability to repay by finding borrowers who are not behind on current financial liabilities. The flexible criteria allow LMI households to invest in home improvement projects such as weatherization and solar PV installation, with an average loan size of $8,500 per project.
SELF also brings project management by actively pre-screening contractors, using third-party tested technologies, and reviewing quotes for customers. This allows SELF to provide safe and responsible investment opportunities.
Currently, 65-70% of its total lending goes to LMI households. Most green banks’ LMI clients take up about 3-5% of the total customer profile. SELF also offers programs for veterans and military families, female heads of households, and people with disabilities. For the bank’s staff, this focus also works as a marketing strategy.
“It would be a huge missed opportunity not to focus on LMI customers,” said Duanne Andrade, CFO of SELF. Duanne adds that SELF sees great value in removing barriers to large upfront costs and providing the energy expertise to find projects that make both financial and environmental sense to customers. As of now, SELF has $10 million in total loans with less than a 1.5% default rate, and projects have resulted in 1,100 metric tons of carbon emissions reduction.