Vermont Community Loan Fund: Clean Energy, Clean Conscience
SunCommon Co-Founder and Co-President Duane Peterson is a VCLF borrower and investor who clearly believes in making the most of vital resources — energy and dollars being key among them
Duane first arrived in Vermont via Los Angeles in 1996 at the behest of Ben and Jerry themselves, who recruited him to take on the role of their “Chief of Stuff,” the company’s internal agent for social change. When the company sold in 2000, Duane found a channel for his energies working with various for- and nonprofits including the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, the state’s largest consumer and environmental advocacy organization.
At VPIRG, he served as Board President, immersing himself in research and advocacy around clean energy. Together with VPIRG staffer James Moore, Duane “imagined a market solution to climate change,” he recalls. Solar energy is that solution, he says, “because everyone has the right to a healthy environment that starts with clean energy.” They launched SunCommon to make solar energy more affordable through group net metering, whereby a community of homes can draw their electricity from a group-owned solar array. When SunCommon needed financing for their first array project in early 2014, VCLF stepped in, proving once again to Duane the alignment of his values with the Loan Fund’s.
Recently, Duane became the first VCLF investor to invest through his Self-directed IRA account, which he sees as allowing him to invest in alternative ways and diversify his portfolio. “VCLF is in my safe investment pool,” he says, underscoring the security he feels he can count on with the Loan Fund. “They have a great track record of supporting what I want to support, while also being successful and paying the money back. But I also want to invest in ways that reflect my values. I’ll get some return on investment while promoting values-led endeavors. What could be better?”