NatWest and RBS extend support for renewable energy projects

With many years supporting the renewables sector, NatWest and Lombard (partners under the RBS bank) are continuing to drive their efforts; with energy audits, a wider range of funding options, and farm energy efficiency top of their agendas.

NatWest and Lombard are into their fourth year of supporting the Energy Now Expo coming up at the Telford International Centre on February 11 and 12. Delegates will be able to talk to them about their recent change in policy which allows the bank to take into account up to 30% of future earnings from AD or hydro technologies when lending on capital projects.

“AD and hydro technologies represent a huge opportunity for farmers considering renewable energy in the UK,” says Ian Burrow, head of agriculture and renewable energy at NatWest and RBS.

“With energy costs continuing to rise, and a growing pressure of agricultural businesses to become more efficient, farmers and landowners are continuing to look at whether renewable energy technologies will work for them.

“Although we have supported renewable projects including solar and wind for a number of years, I’m delighted that we’re the first banks to be able to take this step forward to support farmers with AD and Hydro technologies, working alongside them to turn these projects into reality.”

Energy generation is just one area of support being offered – with energy efficiency taking centre stage after the launch of the Mentor Energy Audits – the bank’s consultancy, advice and legal protection partners. Since its launch last year, they have undertaken over 280 farm energy audits, on average saving up to £40,000 off farmers’ annual bills. “We’re busy looking at all things energy,” says Ian, “The main issues are looking at whether farmers can use energy better (more efficiently), buy it better or generate it themselves.

“There’s so much to consider – lighting on farm, heating, insulation, for example. Audits identify the top areas on each unit and then measure the efficiency.”

Ian says the bank has identified the Energy Now Expo as the number one energy show in the country, and says it draws the target audience he and his team want to reach.

“The key thing is that we’re not there just to sell finance,” says Hiten Sonpal, senior director, Lombard Green Energy Finance. “We’ve grown with the show and we’re there to guide farmers and landowners through the rabbit warren that’s renewable energy, in its broadest sense. Finance is an integral part of making any project work, and today everyone has got to ask themselves whether their farm is efficient enough.”

Both Ian and Hiten are talking at the multi-stream conference held at the event – and demand for a place in their sessions is bound to be high. Those who want to hear Ian and Hiten talk about unlocking funding options should book a place for the opening session on Wednesday between 9.15am and 11.00am.

On Thursday Ian can be heard speaking on the different financial models and timetable of changes for available incentives in the finance session starting at 11.30am. Hiten can be heard giving a financial guide to biomass projects in the biomass session also at 11.30am.

The bank’s decision to take future earnings into account for AD projects when considering funding applications has been welcomed by the chief executive of the ADBA, Charlotte Morton (Chairing a biogas conference session on Thursday), who says that the banking community should be the prime lender for rural businesses. “Before the announcement AD developers were required to service the interest on £1 to £3million debt from existing incomes, and this has been a real barrier to the development of on-farm AD.”

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