The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) more than trebled its lending to solar projects in 2015 compared to the previous year as part of over £1 billion used to support sustainable energy projects.
According to figures released this morning, the bank lent more than double the amount it did in 2014 to renewables, marking a third consecutive year of growth for the sector. RBS says this was driven by significant increases in both solar and biomass projects, with lending to solar reaching more than £450 million in 2015.
Alison Rose, chief executive of commercial and private banking at RBS, said: “Our record £1 billion 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.”
While a significant proportion of this investment would have been fuelled by government subsidies to promote deployment, it is unclear if the high level of solar investment will continue. However, commercial rooftop solar projects are expected to continue to grow in number regardless of reduced financial incentives, suggesting lenders like RBS will continue to garner interest.
The bank, which is now predominantly owned by the state following a £46 billion bailout in 2008 and 2009, claims to have been at the forefront of the UK solar market since 2010. In addition to direct lending over that period, it has reportedly arranged financing for £550 million worth of solar projects.
One of the latest developments to receive support from RBS was the recently completed floating solar project on Thames Water’s Queen Elizabeth II Reservoir, currently the largest of its type in Europe.
According to market data provider InfraDeals, the £1 billion lending milestone has made RBS the largest lender to the UK renewable energy sector.
In a statement released alongside the lending figures, RBS said it remained committed to providing further finance and support to the sector, pledging to lend a total of £3 billion over the three year period to the end of 2017.
RBS has previously been recognised for its green investment programme, having been ranked the number one lender to UK renewable energy projects in the period 2011-2014 by the infrastructure journal. However, it has also been criticised in the past for being “the oil bank of Scotland”, having invested billions in fossil fuel companies around the world.
With global pressures building following the agreements made at COP21 in December, mounting public and government pressure has led to several institutions moving away from fossil fuel investment.
Last week saw 52 coal-related companies dropped from Norway’s sovereign wealth fund following the introduction of new guidelines barring the fund – the largest in the world - from investing in such groups.