Billy Parish studied climate change as a student at Yale, but it wasn't until a summer trip to India after his sophomore year that the reality of the problem hit home. It was 2002 when Parish traveled to the source of the Ganges River, in the Himalayas, and met with scientists who were studying a glacier there. "They told me that the glacier had melted and was much further upriver than it was the year before, and that it was melting faster than anyone had been predicting," he says. "The source of water for millions of people was at risk." The experience had a huge impact on Parish. "Seeing the glacier was the first time I saw climate change face-to-face," he says. "That for me was the moment of no turning back, when I said, 'I need to do something about this.'"
That urge to do something eventually led Parish to create Mosaic, a company that provides financing for homeowners who want to go solar, in 2011. It's a Certified B Corporation, meaning that in addition to turning a profit, Mosaic aims to have a positive impact on the world. Today, it's the largest residential solar lender in the country. Mosaic works with roughly 250 solar installers, equipping them with software and financing products that they can offer to their customers. "There are now over 50,000 people who are prospering from clean energy through Mosaic," Parish says, including not just those who own homes, but salespeople and installation crews too.
The typical Mosaic customer is a homeowner who wants to save money while doing something positive for the environment. Larry Allen and Heather Crawling, for example, recently had solar panels installed on their home in Cortlandt Manor, New York. They expect to save $100 a month initially, and twice that once they've paid off their loan. The installer they worked with, Sungevity, also guarantees them a minimum amount of savings; if they don't realize those savings, they'll get a check for the difference. "It's very straightforward," says Parish. "Our borrowers save money from day one."
Mosaic is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the growing interest in solar technology. "There was a time where most analysts thought wind was going to be the dominant renewable energy," notes Parish. But since 2009, the cost of solar panels has fallen 80 percent, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, and the price is expected to continue to drop. Solar is also readily accessible to most everyone, leading Parish to predict that it "will be the dominant renewable energy technology of the future."
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The business opportunities in clean energy are enormous. Ultimately, Mosaic aims to move beyond providing loans for just solar panels. "Our plan for the coming years is to help homeowners finance everything they need to take their home to 100 percent clean energy," says Parish. That could include updating HVAC systems; replacing windows, doors, and lighting; and purchasing a home automation system that helps conserve energy. For Parish, Mosaic is a unique opportunity to make a career out of making a difference. "What I love about coming to work every day is that I get to do something that overlaps completely with my personal mission, and do something that represents a big business opportunity," he says.
That profit motive isn't incidental. Getting people invested, literally, in the transition to clean energy is a key piece of Mosaic's mission. "We started Mosaic because we believe that the more people who are participating in and benefitting from the transition to clean energy, the faster that transition will occur," Parish says. People care about climate change, he notes, but it can be tough motivating them to make big changes. "We needed to tap into people's interests in making money and saving money, and use that power to help drive this transition faster."
Allen and Crawling agree that the financial benefits are partly why they decided to go solar. They expect to not only save money right away but add to the value of their home. They're also excited about reducing their carbon footprint and doing something to help the environment. "It's one of the motivating factors we had for doing this," Crawling says. "It's a big lesson we're teaching our kids." The couple have also noticed more and more homeowners in their area installing the panels. "I definitely feel like it's a trend, at least in our area," says Allen.
The solar movement is gaining momentum in a lot of communities around the country and around the globe. "The transition to clean energy will happen faster than people think," predicts Parish. "I believe we can get to 100 percent clean energy by 2050." The statistics are encouraging: Today, the solar-energy industry in California employs more people than does all of the state's electric utilities, he says, and nationally, more people work in solar than in coal, oil and gas exploration, and mining combined. "The clean-energy forces are growing stronger, we are accelerating this transition, and I'm focused on getting us there faster by getting more people involved."
The 2016 AllStars program is produced in partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal and celebrates social entrepreneurs who are powering solutions with innovative technology. Visit NationSwell.com/AllStars from November 1 to 15 to vote for your favorite AllStar. The winner will receive the Tech Impact Award, a $10,000 grant to help further his or her work advocating for change.