I come bearing little grievance toward our current credit crisis. It is what it is, as they say, and the past cannot be undone. We must now study the constriction in lending through the eyes of the banker and the borrower, identify obstructions and then formulate and implement worthwhile solutions. From a banker’s perspective, the reduction in lending is natural. Why lend money when there’s so much uncertainty on the horizon? The likelihood of loan default will be extraordinarily high throughout the next few years, and the last time the banks lent money willy-nilly and scoffed at risk, this whole mess happened.
From a prospective borrower’s perspective, the banks are greedy and unscrupulous. These big banks just received hundreds of billions of dollars to disinfect their balance sheets, and from Main Street, their reluctance to lend is seen as nothing less than apathetic parsimony.
So we are at an impasse, it seems. There’s an economy in need of lending, but nothing secure or stable to lend to. And since the candidates for lending — the American people — are constant and cannot change, the methods of lending must.
We are in need of a new loan – one that frees the government gold of the banks to worthy candidates, assumes little risk and funds something worthy of our tax dollars. Allow me to introduce you to the “solar-loan,” a concept that can become the backbone of the new lending environment.
In its optimal form, a “solar-loan” would be a government-guaranteed loan of $10,000 to $30,000 offered from banks to qualified homeowners for the purpose of solar panel installation. This would take the creation of another government entity similar to Sallie Mae, Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. In this instance, the new federal institution would guarantee the solar-loans. There could be difficulties in establishing collateral for the loans, as people’s home value far exceeds that of the solar panel installation, hence the need for the government guarantor.
These loans would have a low fixed rate, somewhere to the tune of 5 percent. The government could even dabble in interest subsidization if it felt so inclined. These loans would be of variable length — three, six, 10 or 15 years – and interest could be adjusted accordingly.
This is a tentative and incomplete description of the specifics of the solar-loans, but in the interest of word limits, it will suffice. Let us continue with a discussion of how these loans could affect homeowners who participate in the program and businesses whose work is in the solar panel industry.
Once the panels are installed, they will likely suffice the energy demand of the household, and in some situations, like on a really sunny day, a surplus will be created and resold back to the grid. So the homeowners who participate in the solar-loan program will immediately negate their current energy bills.
If a homeowner has an average monthly electric bill of $200 or more, once the solar panels are installed, that bill will disappear, if not turn into a revenue source. A 10-year $20,000 loan at 5 percent would have monthly payments less than the money saved or generated from the solar panel installation in some situations, but I’m sure that you can see how the savings from reduced energy bills translates into payments on the solar-loan.
Homeowners would embrace these loans, as they may negate future energy bills while also adding real long-term value to the house. In this housing market, it is difficult to establish real value. Solar panels would do that.
In addition to thawing lending, these solar-loans will heat up the green energy sector. The loans will become the conduit by which money enters the green economy, and as more money flows in via the loans and solar panel orders increase, jobs will be created to keep pace with growing demand. An entire industry can arise from the solar-loan program, as the tasks of installation and maintenance will spark entrepreneurship and create jobs, multiplying the effects of the loans even further.
These loans are our bridge to the future, and without them, solar panels will not soon be in the reach of the American homeowner. Let us remove the fiscal barriers to green energy technology through lending and put sustainable living in the hands of the people.