$1m milestone for interest-free climate action loan program
21 December 2022 at 1:33 pm
A non-profit funder is providing interest-free loans to community sector organisations for emission reduction initiatives.
Over one million dollars in interest-free loans has been generated for the for-purpose sector to tackle climate change.
National non-profit Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA) recently celebrated funding climate action loans totalling almost $1,050,000, which have been provided to non-profits, social enterprises and community organisations specifically for emissions reductions projects.
CORENA supports the for-purpose sector to reduce its carbon footprint, through an interest-free loan scheme as well as offering technical advice.
“CORENA’s core purpose is climate action,” head of operations Sarah McCabe told Pro Bono News.
“Extreme weather events disproportionately affect the most vulnerable members of our society and the non-profits that serve them. Reducing our carbon footprint is everyone’s responsibility, and organisations who do, are able to return funds to their core purpose and become more resilient to the effects of climate change too.”
The capital has been raised through CORENA’s revolving climate fund, which uses donations from everyday Australians as well as ongoing loan repayments from previously funded projects to finance new initiatives.
CORENA has funded 48 projects since establishing in 2013, which combined, have avoided over 3,600 MWh of grid electricity – the equivalent of 278.5 average households switching to using 100 per cent renewable energy. Every $100 donated to CORENA’s first project has gone on to achieve $424 in renewable energy impact.
CORENA’s chair Briony O’Shea said the funding milestone was even more impressive given the organisation has been completely volunteer-run up until this year.
“CORENA began as a way to empower everyday individuals to take climate action by funding practical climate action, such as solar installations which immediately reduce emissions,” said Briony.
“It is an incredible achievement that our organisation, which was run entirely by volunteers until only this year, has implemented over one million dollars in climate action projects. It’s also a tremendous example of the power of individuals to take positive action, as we continue on behalf of our donors to support the community sector to reduce emissions and tackle the climate emergency.”
The range, size and cost of projects that CORENA funds has expanded over its nine years in operation, as greater financing is generated from the growing revolving climate fund.
Examples include $82,000 to install solar at Merriwa Industries – a social enterprise that offers integrated employment opportunities for people with disability – and $24,000 to fund equipment that supports large-scale solar generation at environmental non-profit CERES, among many others.
Some community organisations have received a second interest-free loan following the success of its first in reducing carbon emissions.
CORENA’s latest project was a $55,000 local partnership with Goulburn Valley Community Energy to install solar panels at Lockington Community Care Committee, a Victorian-based organisation that owns and manages low-cost residential units for people who are retired and/or have a disability.
The project will avoid an estimated 133,000 kWh of grid electricity each year, which is equivalent to 24 average homes using zero-emission renewable energy.
“For many residents, their homes are cold in winter and hot in summer because they use little electricity due to their low-income status. This project will reduce carbon emissions, reduce cost of living pressures for residents and improve comfort and health outcomes by providing lower cost electricity,” explained McCabe.
CORENA offers interest-free loans to social enterprises, not-for-profit and community organisations specially for climate-focused initiatives. This includes solar installations; energy efficiency upgrades such as LED lighting and building insulation; replacing gas appliances with energy-efficient electric alternatives; and purchasing electric vehicles.
The program is especially helpful for organisations operating in the for-purpose sector which typically battle time, resource and funding constraints. Loan repayments are calculated so they never exceed the organisation’s original energy bills, ensuring it is not out of pocket, while long-term savings generated from the climate project can be redirected to its core mission.
“Interest-free loans are a powerful incentive that assist non-profits [to] implement projects where they may otherwise find it difficult to access the capital,” continued McCabe.
“CORENA helps to remove other barriers to action too by assisting non-profits develop their project, providing technical advice and creating a robust financial business case which can be used to present to their Chief Financial Officer or Board. CORENA helps out where they may not have the internal expertise or time to do this work themselves.
“Many are pleasantly surprised when they see just how much solar panels, electric vehicles or energy efficiency measures return to their organisation.”
For-purpose organisations can apply online for CORENA’s interest-free loans.