RBS hits £1bn milestone for green loans

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has doubled its financial lending to sustainable energy projects, with more than 400 small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) acting as benefactors of a £1bn lending spree from the bank in 2015.

In a press statement released this morning, RBS announced a third consecutive year of growth for financial lending to sustainable energy projects, as it homes in on a £3bn lending total by 2017.

The £1bn-plus lending figures for this year have been described as a record for the banking sector by renewables and infrastructure market-data provider InfraDeals.

RBS’ chief executive officer of commercial and private banking Alison Rose said: “Our record £1bn of lending is a huge achievement, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to the low-carbon economy and the jobs, businesses and communities that rely on it. It also highlights British businesses’ appetite for investing in renewable energy projects.”

More than 400 SMEs have identified around £10m in potential long-term savings through RBS’ auditing service, which uses more than 300 trained renewable energy banking specialists to show businesses how to cut energy consumption by investing in energy efficiency measures and installing on-site renewables.

In order to hit the 2017 target, the auditing service is now being extended to larger firms with an annual energy spend of more than £200,000. The scheme helps these corporates comply with ESOS and other industry regulations.

The uptake in green project lending was largely driven by the solar and biomass industries, according to RBS. Lending to solar projects more than trebled over the past 12 months, to £450m – with the largest European floating solar array on the Queen Elizabeth II Reservoir the standout project. Meanwhile, biomass lending reached £150m – compared to £50m in 2014.

Green innovations

Figures from the bank’s website also reveal that funds – both lent out and committed – to companies exploring oil and gas projects fell by 70% from £22bn to £6.6bn in 2015, signifying the ongoing shift in financing which has also been reflected by ING.

RBS is continuing to work with SMEs to trial new green innovation ideas through its Innovation Gateway platform, which trials any successful ideas on RBS properties. So far 46 products have been introduced including water reduction toilets and taps, magnetic window glazing and a fibre-optic monitoring system.

While RBS has provided the financial platform for SMEs to embed sustainability within their operations, the bank has also been tweaking its own operations to reduce energy consumption.

RBS has reduced total energy consumption in its own operations by 15% from a 2012 baseline, although another 15% reduction is still needed to meet its 2020 target. This ongoing commitment to reducing energy use has seen RBS save £350,000 annually at its main London office.

The bank has also retrofitted a variety of offices with innovative air conditioning systems, LED bulbs, motion sensors and solar panel arrays. Last year, for example, RBS buildings in Bristol were fitted with 12 sustainable innovations as part of the Bristol Go Green Challenge.

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Matt Mace

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