To celebrates its third ‘birthday’, the UK Green Investment Bank has announced that it has committed £2.3 billion to 58 green infrastructure projects with a total value of £10.1 billion – making it the most active investor in the UK’s renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.
But there are fears that the Edinburgh-based and Edinburgh-registered bank will lose some of this focus – and locus – when it is privatised by the UK government as proposed in the current Energy Bill.
Based on past experience, the Scottish business, financial – and energy sector – is apprehensive that this will also mean a migration of high-paid jobs at Green Investment Bank to the city of London. Even though the wages paid at GIB are among the highest in the public sector, they are dwarfed by the pay rates on offer in the south.
Lang Banks, UK spokesman for WWF, commented: “In a relatively short time the Green Investment Bank has achieved impressive results toward reducing climate emissions and creating jobs in the growing low carbon economy.
“Its successful investments in offshore wind and energy efficiency have been effective in getting numerous innovative projects off the ground.
“Whether it is the Green Investment Bank, Government or others, if we’re to meet our climate change objectives it’s vital that we see continued investment in low-carbon infrastructure and technologies. Failure to invest in the right projects today could end up locking us into a high-carbon world tomorrow.”
On proposed plans to privatise Green Investment Bank, Banks added:
“Providing the GIB with additional borrowing powers could strengthen its ability to deliver more for the environment – but without suitable safeguards protecting its green mission, there’s a real risk that the proposed privatisation will undermine its role in unlocking green investment. Whatever the outcome the green purpose of the GIB must be retained.”
A spokeswoman for Scottish Renewables, said: “In the three short years of Green Investment Bank’s existence it has become an important source of capital to the renewable energy sector and initiatives that have contributed to cutting carbon emissions and driving energy efficiencies in the Scottish economy.
“From investing in major offshore wind projects to biomass boilers in whisky distilleries and LED street lighting, the GIB has demonstrated its diversity.
“We hope to see this commitment in renewable heat and electricity in Scotland continue as the bank moves into its next important phase.”
Over the past three years, Green Investment Bank achievements include:
Waste and Bioenergy: Supported innovation by becoming the only investor to finance four separate gasification technologies in the UK.
Offshore Wind: Financed 757 offshore wind turbines in the UK – that’s 40% of all the turbines currently operating or under construction.
Energy Efficiency and Community Scale Renewables: Committed £400m to dedicated funds and asset finance platforms and launched the Green Loan to help UK Local Authorities make the switch to low-energy streetlighting.
Its most recent investment – a commitment of £47m to Northern Ireland’s largest Energy from Waste (EfW) plant – is indicative of its mandate: financing innovative UK green infrastructure projects on a commercial basis while ‘crowding in’ private sector capital.
Shaun Kingsbury, Chief Executive, Green Investment Bank, commented: “Since we opened for business three years ago, we have worked with almost 100 co-investors to finance more than £10 billion of green infrastructure in the UK.
“But our contribution goes beyond the projects we have financed: we have shown that green investment is good business.”