Banks are helping to spark rise in green technology investments

Chris Abel, managing director of Abel Energy Chris Abel, managing director of Abel Energy

Shaun Lowthorpe Business editor
Thursday, June 26, 2014
3:59 PM

Businesses are showing a greater interest in investing in renewable energy technology in the wake of an increased appetite from banks to finance investments in the technology.

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Rob Parke, left, and Neil Clark owners of Anglia Easy EnergyRob Parke, left, and Neil Clark owners of Anglia Easy Energy

Firms exhibiting at the Royal Norfolk Show reported rising demand for renewable technologies – particularly among farm businesses – as access to finance became easier.

The market has also been transformed by the introduction of the government’s renewable heat incentive in 2011, an £860m scheme which was expected to increase green capital investment by £4.5bn up to 2020.

Chris Abel, managing director of Watton-based Abel Energy, said the firm had noticed an increased demand for solar technology, particularly among farmers, while there was also commercial interest from out-of-town retail parks.

“In solar there has been a high uptake in commercial recently because the cost has reduced,” he said. “Businesses now are finding they can get the finances. Banks are much more willing to lend, which has made a huge difference for us.

“The main sector in our market is agriculture, or high energy use businesses, and it’s mainly for photovoltaics (PV), making as much use of their roof space as possible.

“Farmers are using it for drying grain. The banks weren’t initially willing to lend for PV, because it was untested technology, but it became commercially viable when the tariff came in.”

Neil Clarke, from Norwich-based biomass boiler specialists Anglia Easy Energy, said the business had seen an increased interest in biomass boilers among farms, large halls, and hotels, as businesses switched on to the cost savings involved.

“The farmers now see it as an investment,” he said.

“If you are investing £100,000 on installation, you get £25,000 back a year off the government and then you are saving £15,000 a year off that and that’s all guaranteed for 20 years.

“With grain drying, farmers would have been using LPG to dry the grain, but now they are switching to biomass. Where before it would cost them to dry it, they can earn money now.”

Gary Sallis, senior relationship manager, energy and agricultural services at NatWest in King’s Lynn, said the bank had seen an increase in interest in renewables with businesses keener to invest as the technology became proven.

“We have certainly seen an upturn in the number of people looking at it,” he said. “Anoerobic digestion is becoming more popular with more progressive farms looking at that form of energy. Banks are also looking at re-financing existing projects because there is a track record on that investment.”

Is your business investing in green technology? Email business editor Shaun Lowthorpe at shaun.lowthorpe@archant.co.uk

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