Co-operative Bank lending to renewable energy projects hits £500m

The Co-operative Bank’s steadfast support for business was underlined today by new figures showing it has lent more than half a billion pounds to renewable energy projects since 2007.

Despite these years being widely regarded as one of the most difficult economic periods in history, the Bank has reinforced its commitment to double lending to the renewables sector to £1bn by 2013. This is part of the pioneering Ethical Plan, developed by the bank’s parent, The Co-operative Group.

In the past four years, the bank’s specialist renewables team has funded 108 new renewable energy projects.

The Co-operative welcomes the significant recent support the government has provided for low carbon energy, which has seen the UK begin to catch up to its European counterparts in both the size and scale of renewables deployment. However, it believes there is real danger that these gains could fall away should the review of incentive schemes for large (Renewable Obligation Certificates) and small (Feed-in Tariffs) green energy generation not be completed quickly and with a view to maintaining momentum.

The bank specialises in renewable energy projects with a capital value of up to £25m which are typically taken on by smaller developers, community groups and landowners as a means to diversify income. It has expertise in onshore wind, hydro, biomass and combined heat and power systems, including the complex processes involved in planning permission and grid connection.

Richard Wilcox, head of social banking at The Co-operative Bank, said: “Prior to the financial crisis, we made a commitment to support the renewable energy sector.  

“Despite all the economic turmoil and retrenchment by many lenders, our historically prudent approach meant we were able to maintain this support.

“At a time when many communities are fighting for survival from the wider economic challenges, small to medium renewable energy schemes provide them an opportunity for communities to become sustainable, creating local jobs and diversifying local economies.

“We welcome the government’s commitment to renewable energy investment which has helped to provide an enabling arena for our rapid growth in renewable investments.

“However, there is a real danger that this could grind to a halt if the review of ROCs and pending review of FiTs are not completed quickly and with a view to nurturing our fledgling environmental industries.”

The figures are further evidence that the bank has benefited from the prudent approach and trust gained following the financial crisis as it maintained support for business customers without recourse to taxpayers’ money.

The Co-operative Group’s Ethical Plan is a three year rolling programme, which encompasses all its family of businesses and sets out a joined up set of goals and targets to drive its ethical and co-operative aspirations.

It raises the bar for corporate social responsibility across key areas including the environment, ethical finance, global poverty, animal welfare, social fairness, health and community enterprise.