The Green Investment Bank - Environmental Audit Committee Contents


Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 134-189)

Elliott Mannis, Prashant and Richard Wilcox

8 December 2010

Q134   Chair: May I give you a really warm welcome on a cold day to the Green Investment Bank inquiry? Thank you all for coming along. We are one down; we had four witnesses but there are three of you. We are looking at the smaller scale issues and aspects of this. I thought it might be helpful, to begin with, to invite each of you to introduce yourselves and give a very short—and I do mean short—introduction on why giving evidence to this inquiry is so important to you in terms of the points that you wish to raise.

Richard Wilcox: Thank you very much and thanks for asking us. My name is Richard Wilcox. I head up the social banking unit within the Co-operative Bank. That deals with any of our customers who have anything to do with social or the environmental aspects. Particularly for today it is renewable energy. We have a team of 20 people financing onshore UK wind, hydro, AD/CHP biomass schemes, typically in the sub-£20 million seam, so at the smaller end of the market but not at the micro end. We have a total lending book of about £400 million and growing. There is very, very strong interest at the moment. We have a work-in-progress schedule that is bulging. My interest in the Green Investment Bank is how you can help to unblock the blockages to allow us and other banks to do more in this sector.

Prashant Vaze: My name is Prashant Vaze. I am the Chief Economist and Head of Fair Markets for Consumer Focus. We are a statutory organisation. We were set up to champion customer interests. We get essential resources from energy customers, postal customers and about a third of our money is unrestricted so it is just for the general customer interest. I am also currently writing a book called "Repowering Communities", which is of some relevance to this inquiry because it is to do with projects in North America and Europe to try to reduce emissions from communities. Consumer Focus has been quite involved with DECC over the last 12 months or so on the Green Deal and the Pay As You Save model before that. We have also been working on fuel poverty issues, as I am sure people here are aware, and doing stuff on affordable warmth and things like this. Earlier this year we did an investigation into the cash ISA market, so we have an interest in other retail savings markets as well.

Q135   Chair: Thank you. I know the Woodland Trust is keen to give a very brief introduction as well.

Elliott Mannis: Thank you. My name is Elliott Mannis. I am a non-executive director of the Woodland Trust. For my day job I am chief executive of a firm called London Bridge Capital, which is a corporate finance adviser to the clean tech and renewable energy sector. We are here today to share a few thoughts around the possibility of the Green Investment Bank investing in woodland creation and similar conservation projects.

Q136   Chair: Thank you very much. Our first question to each of you is how the Government should engage with individuals and communities when designing the Green Investment Bank. It is very easy for there to be a complete priority on the big investors and on the large-scale investments. We are particularly interested in terms of what the design should look like in respect of how it is able to address the needs of citizens and communities.

Richard Wilcox: I absolutely agree. To me it is a two-stage process for the Green Investment Bank. On the one hand there is a real opportunity to seize change in the structural market for renewable energy, but that is going to take a long time and a lot of money to deliver. In the meantime there is an awful lot of short-term quick wins that can be gained at the community end, some of which are non-financial and some of which are advisory and enabling in structure. They can be done pretty quickly. There are others which are financial but not hugely costly. In doing the big structural changes, I think it is really important that the Green Investment Bank doesn't lose sight of the smaller opportunities, particularly at community, SME and the corporate end.

Q137   Chair: In terms of the work that you are doing and the long-term plans that you have, could you perhaps give us some idea of the particular subjects or projects that would be really suited to what could come out of the Green Investment Bank?

Richard Wilcox: Yes. As I said, we are primarily funding energy generation: that is onshore wind, hydro and anaerobic digestion, and then energy efficiency, which can include CHP and district heating schemes. As I said, we have a work-in-progress schedule that is probably in excess of £1 billion for small-scale sub-£20 million projects. The problem is that there is probably only us as a bank, and a couple of smaller social enterprise banks, that are active in that end of the market. It will take us some time to work through that work-in-progress list because they are quite complicated structures to deliver. The essential nature of a £20 million or a £10 million renewable energy scheme is the same as a £50 million or £100 million scheme. It takes the same length of time to deliver. Any relief that the Green Investment Bank can deliver in terms of capital costs or equity for the small-scale community to unblock that would be very beneficial. It is really helping us, and others like us, to lend more.

Q138   Chair: It occurs to me that I should perhaps declare an interest because I have an account with the Co-op Bank. In terms of the specific small-scale projects that you could be working on, do you feel that there is sufficient opportunity to have a dialogue with those designing the Bank now to ensure that when we know what it is going to look like in detail there will have been some real regard to addressing your side of the market?

Richard Wilcox: I think so. We are talking regularly to DECC and engaging with them all the time. As I say, I think there is a real need for it to be hugely beneficial in the large scale, but I don't want everybody just running off to try and do carbon capture and storage, grid infrastructure and all the rest without remembering that there are support mechanisms that could be put in place to help finance the smaller scale schemes as well. DECC seem to be on board with that, and we talk to them regularly.

Q139   Chair: Do either of you want to come in?

Prashant Vaze: We have been very supportive of the whole Green Deal enterprise that the Government are announcing. We are very conscious that there are very substantial calls for capital from large-scale infrastructure needs like power stations and power lines. I think there is an equivalent level of investment needed in the much more domestic and community level stuff. You see figures of £200 billion bandied around. I would guess there are equivalent figures on the domestic and community level for things like district heating systems, which Richard has already mentioned, and some of the high-cost installation measures like solar installations, internal insulation. I think there is a real role there for getting that kind of investment in.

The way we hope Green Deal will develop is that it is not going to be restricted to just the big six energy companies being providers. We hope very much that some of the Green Deal providers that come forward are slightly non-conventional. I was speaking this morning to a social housing provider. I know very well that local government is quite interested in this as well. There might be much smaller players as well who can come in and not necessarily get access to the capital markets in the way that big energy companies might do, and to an extent local government might do too. We are very much hoping that the Green Investment Bank can provide that capability of talking to small Green Deal providers who have aggregated a reasonable amount of projects together. I was talking to one this morning that is responsible for 30,000 homes in the Newcastle area. Often the kind of investment needed is quite substantial in the aggregate, but it does rely on low-cost finance. It is important that the Green Deal can supply that kind of low-cost finance. Essentially it can borrow from the money markets at a cheap rate and it passes on that discount. I hope also it has the kind of skills and in-house knowledge that understands what a good project is and is not too risk averse, in the way that some banks might be otherwise.

Chair: Mark, did you want to come in on that point?

Q140   Mr Spencer: It was really just trying to draw the line between what is small scale and what is large scale. I didn't know if you wanted to have a stab at how you do that. Are we talking sterling or megawatts? Where do you draw the line? What becomes large scale and what is small scale?

Richard Wilcox: We tend to finance primarily above a megawatt at the moment but are looking to come down in scale with the advent of feed-in tariffs, because that has made it much more attractive to do slightly smaller scale. We will come down probably to the 250,000 kilowatt end or 500,000 kilowatts. There is still that microgeneration area which is entirely separate. In my opinion, that is more Green Deal than the Green Investment Bank and I see a difference between the two.

Elliott Mannis: At the risk of complicating matters, can I perhaps suggest a slightly different dimension for looking at things? A lot of the debate so far—not just today but generally—has been focused around the scale of projects and perhaps a perceived risk that a lot of the effort and expenditure that the Green Investment Bank would devote would be focused on large-scale infrastructure to the peril of smaller projects, or perhaps even start-up and technology things. That is a good and worthy debate and one we should focus on. I think there is also a different dimension. One could distinguish between what I describe as the built or the industrial environment, whether that is large scale or smaller scale, and what I would describe as part of the social infrastructure. It is fantastic to look at carbon capture and storage mechanisms or ways to get an efficient grid, but at the same time we all want green social public spaces. Most people would declare an affinity for woodland, and woodland can be both a useful asset from an investment perspective and a very useful way of sequestering carbon. I would suggest that one of the things that ought to be in contemplation on the Green Investment Bank's agenda is how it addresses that additional agenda item; otherwise what we will end up with is lots of technology but not a lot of green space or trees. The solution probably lies in addressing all of those things in the round so that this is still a jolly good place to live.

Q141   Chair: How do you think that that might be written into the criteria at such time as the Green Investment Bank becomes operational and that it could take account of that difference that you've just described?

Elliott Mannis: As a suggestion as to how this might work, one needs to think about how the Green Investment Bank might be funded, because it obviously needs to be capitalised in some way, and then how that money is actually applied and used. One of the things the Green Investment Bank will be thinking about is what are those different sources of capital, what are the applications and how does it match time-wise in terms of assets and liabilities because they need to be in balance otherwise banks end up with a problem.

  As a suggestion, one could have investment bonds, be they either corporate investment bonds or ones that members of the public could participate in. You could use a portion of your ISA or you could have a top-up element in your ISA. There are all kinds of things that would quite naturally have an affinity, both with the corporate world and with individuals, where people would want to do this type of thing. To be very clear, people make charitable donations towards woodland today. If one is able to make a practical investment and actually get a rate of return as opposed to just the feel-good factor that comes from a charitable donation, that would be a good thing. Then you could earmark those funds towards particular social outcomes or purposes.

  For example, there are in existence today, through other institutions types of investments where you can invest in forestry. One doesn't get a fantastically great rate of return but one does get great stability in terms of the yield of that asset. It tends not to be very volatile. You are pretty much assured of getting your money back because you are investing in land and trees. It isn't like investing in an industrial concern. At the same time you are investing not just in a fantastic social environment but also in the sequestration of carbon. That obviously goes some very substantial way towards meeting both the social and technical objectives that this is all about.

Q142   Chair: What in effect you are suggesting, which was my next question, is that there should be some kind of a mandate in place to have regard within the Green Investment Bank to ethical policies—which is at the forefront of what the Co-op does—and similarly somehow or another to value those values when decisions are being made. How do you think that could most easily be done?

Prashant Vaze: I would phrase that a little bit differently. Returning back to your question about what the appropriate size of the deal is, if you look at some of the examples in America, there have been examples—for instance in Berkeley—where something called PACE, the Property Assessed Clean Energy financing system, has been attempted in a number of cities and localities in California and elsewhere in America. Berkeley had a real problem. I went and interviewed them and they managed to get about 40 or 50 people on board. Basically the transaction costs of dealing with such small sums of finance posed a problem. In the end we are talking about a bank, so a bank has to make projects that are individually viable. Obviously I agree with many of the points that Elliott and Richard are making, but in the end a project has to be viable and wash its face. Some successful schemes in California have included ones in Palm Springs, where I think you are looking at deal sizes of several million dollars. It is important that the project sponsor comes forward with a reasonable aggregation of individual projects; otherwise the transaction costs would be too large.

Q143   Chair: But how would you balance whether or not what was viable and what was working was as important to, if you like, the more excluded or marginalised parts of society or community groups?

Prashant Vaze: That is a very good question and one that we feel is very important. At the moment the Government has a number of policies in place to try to address that. We are very supportive of things like the Energy Company Obligation, which is essentially trying to make sure that certain amounts of energy bill money goes towards the fuel pool. It is very important that the Green Investment Bank has that in-house capability to understand the various Government schemes that are out there, so to make sure that when deals come forward it actually makes full use of those. I am very aware that in Wales, for instance, there are things like Objective 1 money being used for projects as well. The Green Investment Bank should hopefully help the project sponsors to identify particular streams of money and take full advantage of those. It is also important that the Green Investment Bank passes on the cheap cost of finance that it has and isn't prejudiced against particular projects because the credit ratings and credit records of the individual communities are not great. They should look at each project in its own right.

Richard Wilcox: Just coming back to your original question about how you would make it accountable, transparent and ethical, you could always try making it a co-op.

Q144   Peter Aldous: A theme that I picked up from reading the Wigley report is that we have a very steep mountain to climb in terms of being able to meet our renewable energy targets by 2020. For the GIB to make an impact you've got to go for some big projects to start with, in terms of Smart Grid and offshore wind, for instance. From what the three of you have said, I get the impression that you may not agree with that approach.

Richard Wilcox: From my perspective, I agree with it. I think, absolutely, if you want scale that is what you are going to have to do, but to get those things is going to take some time. Why not, in the meantime, do some things that you can do quickly? As I say, don't lose sight of the fact that there are huge opportunities at the smaller end of the commercial scale just by focusing your whole attention on the long-term picture.

Prashant Vaze: I agree with that. It is important that the Green Investment Bank has regard to the profile of spending disbursements and actual income coming in. I do want us to remember that a lot of individually-sized projects in aggregate make up huge amounts of carbon. Only yesterday, the Energy and Climate Change Committee reminded us that something like half of our emissions are from heat, and about 80% of those are from houses and commercial premises. In aggregate those are very large scale.

Richard Wilcox: Also, small scale tends to get local agendas. It tends to create jobs in the community. It is embedded generation whereas the large scales aren't. I think it is important that there is a balance in all this.

Elliott Mannis: At the risk of us being unanimous, absolutely we need to do some very large things to get some quick wins and get some impact. But we need, also, to be very cognisant of the fact that we are talking about the use of public monies. Public monies need to address a whole host of goals, including the environment in which we want to live and all manner and different forms of sequestering carbon in all its different ways. In particular, we would suggest that there need to be some clear objectives in terms of not just how monies are raised but how monies are focused and deployed. I am looking at Appendix 3 in the back of the Commission's report on page 45. It talks about technologies, infrastructure and investments, but it doesn't talk about the non-built environment, the social environment. I think in the mandate to the Green Investment Bank, there must be a very clear statement around the purpose and intent and how funds ought to be deployed because it is our money. It is the antithesis of a bank in the traditional sense, capitalised from private funds. This has to deliver a whole host of goals, and I would suggest they are much broader than just investing in large-scale infrastructure projects.

Q145   Peter Aldous: Just one other supplement, and you have semi-answered this. Wigley doesn't dismiss the smaller schemes but another theme is that he says there is work to do in terms of aggregation to make projects and packages attractive to the market. From the way you are talking you appear to be ahead of the curve on what he's saying in his report.

Prashant Vaze: I am saying that there are opportunities to aggregate projects at different levels. For instance, local government can be a nucleus of that aggregation, and social housing providers can be a nucleus of that aggregation. But it is important there is a clearly identified project sponsor coming forward with a viable business plan. That is obviously the important bit. I completely agree with Elliott that we shouldn't have this entity just to do with narrow carbon or whatever. It should have a greater central purpose. After all, it is being supported by BIS, so I am sure they are not going to be indifferent to creating jobs, economic growth, development and these kinds of things. Obviously we would argue for fuel poverty as well, so it does need to have this wider purpose.

  Just to remind us, it is like the KfW. When it was first set up, it was created in order to rebuild Germany after the Second World War. The EBRD was created for issues to do with stimulating market economies in the eastern bloc countries. We must not be too specific about what its purpose and function is because these things develop over time.

Richard Wilcox: I would say that one of the key roles for me for the Green Investment Bank is acting as a facilitator between the banks and the pension funds, to get a common understanding of what is a fundable deal. If we can then aggregate them, then 100 deals at £2 million each becomes a function that the pension funds can invest in. At the moment they are so disparate and siloed that there is no room for the pension funds because they can't understand a £1 million deal; but if they can understand all of them done on standard documentation, with boilerplate facility docs, etc., then it is going to bring in that part of the funding structure, the capital market structure, that isn't there now, which is to my mind absolutely essential to get the scale that we need.

Elliott Mannis: At the risk of digressing from a woodland agenda for one minute, I think what the three of us are suggesting is that the scope of the remit could go further. In particular, with respect to the point about aggregation, one of the things any Green Investment Bank would need to be mindful of is where the technology comes from. It is great to invest in gigantic carbon capture and storage projects or ways of making a Smart Grid, but where does technology come from? Technology tends to come from entrepreneurs and innovators. Just investing in "large-scale stuff", for want of a better term, doesn't breed the next generation of talent. The worry about aggregation that I would have, whether you do it by whatever means, is that there needs to be investment in small-scale technology and innovation because that's where the bright ideas come from. Aggregation doesn't directly address that. When the report talks about market issues or where things can't get done, I will tell you from bitter experience what can't get done at the moment, because it doesn't really exist, is small-scale funding—call it venture capital—for pre-revenue projects: things that are ideas, proven at a lab scale that you need to take to the next level. That's where your next wind turbine, your Smart Grid, your next whatever, is going to come from. The means to finance that doesn't really exist today.

Q146   Zac Goldsmith: On this point, I am a big fan of the Woodland Trust and I agree with what you said about the importance of addressing issues relating to the non-built environment. That is going to be a big part of the focus of the work of this Committee and the things we've discussed since its formation. My concern is that by having too broad a focus for the bank it will try to become all things to all people and might end up becoming nothing to anyone. The purpose of the Green Investment Bank, as I understand it, is to leverage very large sums of money in order to facilitate a rapid shift towards a low-carbon economy. That means grabbing the low-hanging fruit. It means trying to correct market failure in this sector and doing so within a very short period of time. It just seems to me that, if we start focusing also on forest bonds, woodland bonds and these kinds of things, we could find ourselves in a tangle. I am just wondering whether you share any of those concerns.

Elliott Mannis: The concerns definitely resonate—absolutely—and it's been a big subject of discussion in terms of our thinking around this proposition. Our perspective on it goes as follows. I agree about the low-hanging fruit. I agree about getting the big wins. I also think the big lumps of capital that are going to go into the bank are likely to be targeted in that direction. They are likely to come from the larger pension funds and a range of other "usual" sources.

  There is also the very unique opportunity, given that nothing like this truly exists today, to capitalise on the public's imagination and create some momentum where investment products can be offered to the public or offered to corporates on a very targeted basis where you can match the inbound investment capital and what it's directed towards. That might be 0.5% of what the bank does, but it could serve a very good purpose along the way without distracting from the core. It would make sense in terms of delivering a balance of outcomes together with making sure that the large lumps of capital address what truly needs to be done.

Prashant Vaze: I very much agree with your point about low-hanging fruits. If you look at the Ernst & Young report, which is talking about the kind of scale at which it might operate in the near future, in the first few years of its life, we are talking about tens of billions, whereas the challenge is in hundreds of billions. That kind of mismatch between what's available in the short term and what's needed is absolutely clear. So I absolutely love low-hanging fruits. I would argue that quite a lot of these low-hanging opportunities are at the community level, and certainly the kind of stuff that we saw from the Energy and Climate Change Committee yesterday was putting costs at minus £70 per tonne of carbon from high energy efficiency options. Even the kind of district heating, which I think you mentioned, came in at quite a low price relatively. I think it was £10 to £20 per tonne packs. Some insulation is not so good. There are relatively low-hanging fruits here, plus they will deliver quite quickly so it doesn't mean that resources are tied up for many, many years.

Q147   Sheryll Murray: We have heard that there are lots of different types of projects that the Green Investment Bank could or should prioritise. Your evidence suggests that the bank should focus on the medium and community scale projects where investment barriers are more acute. Could you tell me if you think these projects would cut enough CO2 emissions? I know you've mentioned aggregation.

Prashant Vaze: Yes. As I mentioned earlier on, something like half of our emissions are from heat and about 80% of these are from the heating of buildings and the heating of commercial premises. The quantity of energy that is required for this is very substantial. The issue is then how much of this can be addressed. With certainly some of the deep retrofit type projects, for want of a better word, and we are talking about things like insulation of solid wall homes, there are something like six million of these. Each of these might cost about £10,000. I have seen figures that this kind of intervention could save maybe 30% of emissions from that building. The numbers are there. It is really working out what the barriers are and whether the Green Investment Bank or the project sponsors can bring the deals together in a way that makes it viable. That is where I am hoping that the community level will work. Some of the economies of scale you get are really from an area-based, street-by-street type of approach to energy insulation, especially to external walls, especially some of the kinds of things on windows and heating systems.

Richard Wilcox: I agree. I think it is speed of delivery. A lot of these are ready projects now. It is also about energy mix and the balance of that energy mix within the UK.

Q148   Sheryll Murray: Do you think these investments would provide a worthwhile financial return for the investments?

Richard Wilcox: Yes is the short answer.

Q149   Chair: How?

Richard Wilcox: They would have to focus on the right sort of technologies in the right places. There is no point putting solar panels in Aberdeen. There is no point doing a wind farm in central London. But if you focus on those areas where they have the strongest natural resources the financial returns are there. It is acting as the catalyst to make those happen and widen that market. That is where I think the Green Investment Bank is not taking non-commercial risks or non-commercial returns; it is just acting in a way that others don't to bring in that private sector investment.

Q150   Sheryll Murray: You have just said there is no point in putting solar panels in a house in Aberdeen. How would you justify the different projects in different areas from a national bank?

Richard Wilcox: Because I think they can focus geographically in the areas that best suit the resources there. In Aberdeen we are doing an awful lot of wind turbines: smallish 1 MW and 2 MW schemes that are perfect for that area. In Cornwall, the same. In London maybe it is all about retrofitting public buildings. It is not just energy generation. We shouldn't focus purely on energy generation. Energy efficiency and heat are just as important.

Q151   Zac Goldsmith: Just to clarify, relative to the overall portfolio of the Co-operative Bank, how big is your emphasis on renewable energy and clean technology?

Richard Wilcox: At the moment it is about 5% of our corporate asset book, but, as I said, it has grown. We have a work-in-progress schedule in excess of £1 billion.

Q152   Zac Goldsmith: How does it perform?

Richard Wilcox: It performs well.

Q153   Zac Goldsmith: Can you give us an example? What sort of performance?

Richard Wilcox: We lend at commercial rates. We don't subsidise it. I sound like a Heineken beer commercial. We go to places that other banks don't go but not to achieve sub-market returns. It is because we truly have a triple bottom line analysis. It is social, environmental and financial. Other banks don't have that triple bottom line. It doesn't mean it's not economic to do: it is. We make money, but it's about more than that. It is about creating the environment and it's about creating sustainable social benefits.

Q154   Zac Goldsmith: Can I ask one more question instead of butting in? What has stopped you at a billion? Is it a lack of capital on your part? How much demand could you feed if you were an unlimited bank?

Richard Wilcox: To be honest, that's without even going out and trying the market. That is just word of mouth from schemes that we've done already. I think there is a huge untapped market. But you are right: it is lack of capital. It is not just our lack of capital but lack of capital from the community groups. That is another area where we would really like to think we could focus on providing some pre-development capital for community groups. To get to planning is going to cost £200,000 or £250,000. That is a difficult sum of money for community groups to raise. That is pure risk money. There is nowhere for them to go to get that money. We can come in after they've got planning because we're a commercial bank, but before that stage there is nowhere for them to go. To me that is a perfect role for GIB because it is addressing a market failure that other people aren't there, and it's really acting as a catalyst to the market.

Prashant Vaze: I was going to answer your question of "Will there be money?" I think our answer is probably a bit more guarded. Yes, it could, in a way. We are just collating some work at the moment which hopefully we will be publishing this month, or maybe next, which is looking at the Green Deal and seeing whether households will save money at the range of interest rates we think are likely and the cost of measures that we think are likely. It is very, very conditional on interest rates, especially for some of the external insulation measures. It does matter how the Green Deal is structured, what the interest rate is that is available and that is where the Green Investment Bank comes in.

  In terms of some of the microgeneration options, the way the Government have designed the feed-in tariff—and hopefully the renewable heat incentive, when it's tariffs are announced —is that they are intended to generate returns of something like 6% to 8%, so that should be reasonably satisfactory. The devil is in the detail. We have been looking at quite a few numbers for things like external wall insulation costs, and it varies from £5,000 up to £14,000. I think I mention some of the high end costs in there. Those kinds of high extreme costs will not make very attractive returns. Costs needs to come down, so that's why you need innovation in delivery.

Elliott Mannis: I want to put a woodland perspective on these things. Will woodland generate a return? The answer is simply, yes, it should. For me it delivers one other particular outcome which relates very closely to this notion of a triple bottom line, which is that it gets community engagement and involvement. It is one thing delegating to large industrials the task of addressing CO2. What it takes on an inter-generational basis is a change in the mindset, which means everybody needs to be engaged, which is why you get children to plant trees and why everybody ought to go for a walk in the woods. If you can make a bit of money at the same time, that's a good thing to have achieved. So you could risk carbon sequestration; you've got public involvement; you've got nice places to be. There is a chance to achieve all of these things if the Green Investment Bank targets the uses of its capital in a broader sense.

Q155   Sheryll Murray: How could the Green Investment Bank optimise the mix of small and large-scale investments?

Richard Wilcox: That's a good question. As I say, I think it's all about the balance. Small scales aren't going to achieve it on their own and large scales aren't going to achieve the community benefits on their own. It's a mixture. We estimate that there are between 10 and 20 jobs created per megawatt of energy.


Q156   Sheryll Murray: Do you have any ideas on what mix you would have?

Richard Wilcox: No. I think that is probably for others to answer. I'm not an expert on energy mix.

Prashant Vaze: I'm not a banker, but it needs to have regard to financing some pre-construction stages of a project. There are different phases to a project. I think the Bank should also have a mix of different phases, projects are quite high risk pre-construction so find it quite hard to attract capital. As you were saying, it is appropriate they have some of those, and maybe they sell those projects on once they are completed. We think that some of the lowest hanging fruits are in community energy efficiency and energy. The main role of the Bank is to develop that kind of expertise so that it is the expert on making that assessment and making that judgment call.

Q157   Dr Whitehead: We have touched on the barriers that prevent the take-up of energy efficiency arrangements on a large scale, and in particular, Mr Vaze, you have mentioned the issue of the capital-intensive nature of a lot of energy efficiency programmes and indeed alternative energy programmes. Do you see the role of the Green Investment Bank as essentially being that securitiser of income and the lender of long term so that it would have a particular role in getting over those barriers in energy efficiency?

Prashant Vaze: I think so, but I'm not sure if I understood your question correctly. Taking the situation where a project sponsor comes forward, say a local authority or a social housing provider so they have the retail contacts with the actual houses where energy efficiencies will take place, I would expect them to make a request for finances and the Green Investment Bank would then essentially aggregate those loans and then present that to the money markets. That is where pension funds come in. Because you've got this aggregation it is pooling the risk and therefore if an individual project is not quite performing aggregation will smear that out. That's another role I would want to see.

Richard Wilcox: I agree with that, but over and above that there is the opportunity for GIB to take first loss or equity pieces in securitised structures so that, when we do aggregate, although the pension funds will want to minimise their risk—and the way they can do that is if GIB can come in and take what they call a first loss of the equities in these structures—that will lower the overall credit risk and then attract more of the long-term institutional market.

Prashant Vaze: I think that is a very important point actually. If you look at banks like KfW, they do effectively have the Federal Government or the State Government acting as lender of last resort. A number of the international institutions like this either have that or have a lot of paid-in capital, so I would totally support that, although I suspect the Treasury might not have quite that view.

Elliott Mannis: I think there is a very unique opportunity for the Green Investment Bank to do exactly what you've described, which is to take that very long-term or almost inter-generational view. Some of the projects that might be difficult to finance, or something like woodland, have very significant upfront investment costs in order to put trees in the ground or to do other things. These projects do generate returns but they are in the medium to long term. It takes a long time for a tree to grow, as we all know, but with patience it pays off. I think there is a role for the Green Investment Bank, given its broader perspective, and it's use of public monies, to invest in just those types of infrastructure and to create the financial model where it would not otherwise exist.

Q158   Dr Whitehead: The Green Deal, to some extent, works on that assumption, which is that the capital costs will be defrayed against the bill to the household for energy supplies and therefore will vault over the forward capital problem by bringing in the income over a period of time into that bill for the household and not just the householder. But in terms of the funding of that, that appears to be likely to emerge, the companies involved in that would expect perhaps 8% or 9% return. Certainly there is some work that I've seen being done, by Climate Change Capital, for example, which suggests that that radically depresses the amount of work you can get done. How might a Green Investment Bank get over that particular problem? As we have mentioned, it is not a question of lending at giveaway rates but there are other features, I guess, of how a Green Investment Bank might work, including the question of the way it might be backed and resourced, that would deal with some of those issues.

Prashant Vaze: I think, as you say and as the evidence we are going to be publishing later this month demonstrates, the viability of individual measures is very, very interest rate dependent. Anything that reduces interest rates from those you suggest down to 5% makes a really, really big difference. If the UK Government are prepared to underwrite those kinds of debts, then they can lend at 4.5% or 5%. Those are the kind of rates the UK Government can lend at, so that is what is there to play for. I was talking to people at KfW and they lend out at 2.75% at the moment because the Government are not just the lender of last resort; they are actually giving a subsidy which they pass on as a reduction in the interest rate. I absolutely agree that it is important that we focus on how you get the Bank to access capital at the lowest cost. The sort of potential Green Deal providers we are seeing might not be able to lend at even 7% or 8% because their own creditworthiness is not worthy of that. So there is a real issue. If you want the market to bring in novel Green Deal providers, it is important that they don't have to present to the money markets their creditworthiness because that will hold it back or prevent them from re-entering that market.

Q159   Dr Whitehead: Would it be overstating it to say that perhaps the Green Deal may have quite a substantial need for the Green Investment Bank to get off the ground, as opposed to some of the ways in which finance is at present being looked at?

Prashant Vaze: We have spoken to DECC on this on a number of occasions. I don't think we've got great clarity about exactly how the finances are going to be priced. I have heard figures of 8% and 9% as well. That is quite a high rate and it is going to hold things back. I think it is important to try to do things which will reduce that rate, and also bring in, I would hope, the lower cost Green Deal providers and not just the established energy companies who have a certain rate of return that they require for their shareholders.

Q160   Dr Whitehead: Again, I think this little, shall we say, lack of clarity is, yes, exactly what this entails, but the Energy Company Obligation following on from Green Deal, certainly looks as if it could approach a number of the areas in energy efficiency in hard-to-treat properties, for example, where an even larger amount of upfront capital is required and the returns are even less certain. Would a Green Investment Bank have a particular interest in that, or do you think that the way the figures might work as far as that is concerned would put it beyond the level of commercial lending altogether, assuming you had a real bank which was involved in that?

Prashant Vaze: Just to take that question in parts, the Energy Company Obligation as far as I understand it is going to be used for subsidising measures of the fuel poor, not yet defined, and also for measures in hard-to-treat homes. It is the right things it is being targeted at. The challenge there is getting enough money into that through that mechanism. It is also why the ECO is going to be funded through energy bills on everybody else. We have worries about it pushing up the costs for everybody else if it is done at the scale that is necessary. If we are talking about figures of £50 billion or £60 billion in insulation measures and district heating measures, there is no way that could be funded from fuel costs through an ECO. The money isn't there. That is why you cannot get away from the fact that you need to have low interest rates as well. Yes, we need to support the ECO and target it well on people who are in genuine need and the vulnerable need. Hopefully it will address the issues in the hard to-treat homes as well, but ultimately that is going to get paid for by other energy customers in the way it is being presented to us.

Q161   Neil Carmichael: Before I start, I am going to tell everybody to take note of my entry in the Register of Members' Interests, because I have interests in renewable energy. While you have been talking I've been reflecting on the energy systems that we have at the moment—coal, nuclear and mostly oil. I can't think of one that hasn't had significant Government involvement in this development in the last century or so. In America, there are tax credits and all the rest for oil, and the building of the Hoover dam. You can see the drift I'm heading in. Certainly in this country, there is the nationalisation of coal, the creation of the Central Electricity Generating Board, the development of nuclear weapons and the consequences for the nuclear industry. I want to ask a general question: given that background and given the criticism of renewable energy, "Oh, it has to be subsidised," are we doing enough to propel the market?

Chair: Would any of you like to answer? Don't feel you have to.

Prashant Vaze: I will answer very, very briefly. There are a number of problems that renewable energy faces, of which capital availability is just one. As people around this table very well know, planning permission is a big bugbear. I personally think the energy market, full stop, is a big issue. I hope that DECC will address this in the electricity market reform. I am sure people here are very familiar with the way that the electricity market often handicaps less reliable, smaller scale systems already. There are many things that renewables need Government to get right. The way that the feed-in tariff and renewable heat incentive are brought in will, I hope, address quite a few of the financial things, but all number of things still need to be done on things like biomass, supply side issues and air quality issues. There is no single bullet for renewables, I am afraid.

Richard Wilcox: I would absolutely be opposed to it. I think feed-in tariffs and RHI, help, and Prashant mentioned planning. I think planning is a major thing, so if you can help on anything planning would be one thing that the Government could do.

Q162   Neil Carmichael: I often get the feeling that there is possibly more to do. If you compare the development of electricity in Germany and Britain at the beginning of the last century, twice as many German households had access to electricity than we did in Britain. That was just round about the end of the first world war. If you look at the drivers behind that, you can see that it was the behaviour of Government that was doing the trick in Germany and not enabling the same speed of development in this country. Given that historical background and existing systems of generation and distribution and all the rest, it strikes me sometimes that what we are doing is relatively small scale. I am trying to put my next set of questions into that context.

Chair: Please answer that, and then maybe we need to move on to the set of questions.

Elliott Mannis: I will see if I can answer this in a very concise way. I think your point is a very good one. I think there is a very important role for Government in providing economic stimulus towards areas that need to be moved forward. Quite often markets don't do it on their own. If one thinks in terms of investment in renewable technology in the broader sense, quite frankly people won't invest if it doesn't provide what they deem to be an adequate rate of return. It's got to compete against the broad range of all the other asset classes that are out there. People don't do it from the goodness of their heart because every pension fund needs to make a good return. There is a very important stimulus role be it through subsidies or just pointing money in places where it doesn't otherwise reach. One of the things—this is a digressionary point, for which I will apologise slightly in advance—

Q163   Chair: I really want us to just focus, if we can, on whatever is in the bigger picture but relating to the Green Investment Bank.

Elliott Mannis: There is an important role for Government to provide the stimulus towards places it needs to be.

Q164   Neil Carmichael: The question then is: is the Green Investment Bank the right kind of mechanism to do exactly that? What other obstacles do you think are there which we need to smash down to bring about the outcomes that this is all aimed for?

Richard Wilcox: Very quickly, yes, I agree that the Green Investment Bank is the right thing. It is all about building market share and access to funding, in my opinion. The funding is there: it just may not be in the right places. There is a big role that you can do to actually stimulate that big sea change in the capital markets to get that. Funding is very important. The Green Investment Bank to me is critical in that. What other things? I will let the experts talk about that, but planning and grid connection are two major issues for me.

Prashant Vaze: I will echo Richard's point about the necessity of the Green Investment Bank. There is a huge quantity of investment needed. An institution that is intelligent in terms of appraisal of projects, that's got access to low-cost capital and that has this role of aggregation is absolutely crucial. I have been researching the history of American and European systems quite a lot for this book, so I am happy to talk to you at some later stage about this.

Chair: But not now; please not now.

Prashant Vaze: There is quite a lot of difference in systems in other countries.

Q165   Neil Carmichael: Yes, but they all boil down to the same thing, don't they? That's the interesting point.

Prashant Vaze: In the US most of the rural electrification took place as a result of the New Deal. It was a very, very deliberate act on the part of—Government

Neil Carmichael: Exactly.

Prashant Vaze: In Denmark, as people like Dr Whitehead will know, the Heat Supply Law has been instrumental in creating regulations which essentially creates a forcible demand for heat. All of these things are different in different countries. The feed-in tariff, when Germany first operated it 20 years ago, was very deliberately to break the oligopoly of the big energy companies there because of the fear Government had of what used to be a public sector company and became privatised in the 1950s. So there are very, very different systems in different countries.

  I don't want to go too much into the history of different countries, but in terms of barriers I have already mentioned that the electricity market is a big issue. I think we will be presenting evidence in different fora on that, so you will get an opportunity to hear our views on that. We know about the issues to do with technologies being at different stages. For instance, a feed-in tariff is of no use at all to wave technology. It is not there yet. You need different types of support for different levels of technological maturity. I have nothing to add on planning. This is not a Consumer Focus view, but there is a role for more regulation, especially on some of the demand side of things. A certain proportion of people will respond to the stimuli of economic type; other people won't. If it is an important and genuinely low-cost solution, I think regulation with the appropriate phasing and nudges is likely to be effective.

Elliott Mannis: I agree that potentially the Green Investment Bank could be just the right thing, but it depends very much on what objectives or remit it is given. If it is given a very narrow remit in one sense, it will deliver to that purpose. If it is given a broader remit, then it will deliver to that. It boils down to the specification. I think with regard to stimulus, incentives or subsidies, one needs to look at both carrots and sticks. One of the issues that could be for contemplation, for example, is if we think about our extractive industries—whether they are oil and gas or mining or variously others. When we think about paying the price of a litre of diesel at the pump, does that really put a price on carbon or the impact on biodiversity or a host of other things? I would argue at a high level that one needs to think about how you incentivise the right things to be done and how one properly puts a social price on extractive industries and other things that are not necessarily delivering to the wider objective. We only price things today that we can definitely put a pound sign against. What we can't price or what we don't have the tools to price yet, because it is emerging, is the value of biodiversity or the value of other things that are arguably destroyed by other means. Both tools, together with a very clear remit to the Green Investment Bank, could deliver precisely what we want if it is well crafted.

Q166   Chair: Can I ask Mr Mannis as well, for the record, in terms of the Green Investment Bank funding green investments such as tree planting, if it is a question of having to find that financial return in the Bank, how would you account for that?

Elliott Mannis: There are several points in this. If I have misunderstood the question, please help me. Do I believe that woodland creation—an investment in woodland—would deliver a pure financial return? Yes, I do. I believe that return is modest: i.e. in the range of probably 2% to 3% per annum. How would that be accounted for? The return is generated in the long run over a portfolio of assets. If one invested immediately in woodland today, it is not likely to generate a great return in the early years because young trees need to grow and emerge, but as they do there is the opportunity to take benefit from that woodland through harvesting it, as one would with any other agricultural crop. Over a 30, 40, 50-year term one will see cash returns and delivery of a running yield as one would with any other asset class. I don't know if that answers the question for you.

Q167   Mr Spencer: Just on that point, as a nation how strategically bright would that be, given the pressure on land, in terms of our food security and our energy security? How strategically right would that be to take an enormous amount of land out of food and energy production and put it into woodland?

Elliott Mannis: I think there are several parts of this. First of all, I will qualify my answer by saying I am not an agricultural expert. On what I do know, first of all, the UK has, by comparison to its European peers, one of the lowest rates of woodland as a function of the extension of farming and intensive agricultural use over time. If one looks at where one can expand, I think you can see that one could easily expand the area of woodland cover by putting it in places where there isn't natural agricultural production. You could think of hilly areas in Wales or in Scotland, etcetera, that aren't necessarily the most productive hectare of land so it wouldn't infringe. Therefore you could have the benefit of the carbon sequestration and all the other biodiversity and social benefits without having to put pressure on peak arable farmland. There is more than enough land to achieve both goals that I would sacrifice.

Q168   Zac Goldsmith: Just very quickly on that point. I am going to sound like a philistine now and I apologise in advance. The point about the Green Investment Bank is to trade this shift to a low-carbon economy. If it were to invest in woodland related projects, it would be on the basis of its contribution to carbon reduction. That is the only way you can justify the Green Investment Bank, as we all understand it at the moment. I know you would like a broader remit, but that is within the context of most people's understanding in the Bank. If that was the rationale, the Green Investment Bank would get a much better return for its investment by investing in woodland-related schemes in other countries, not this country, where land is less expensive, where labour is less expensive and so on. If you are only looking at this in terms of carbon, which I think the Green Investment Bank will do, the way I see it, it is very unlikely the Green Investment Bank would ever find itself investing in these kinds of schemes. I am not suggesting they are not important, but it is hard for me to understand how the Green Investment Bank is the vehicle that you would look to to deliver that kind of funding. Maybe there are other sources of funding—I'm not sure where—but it is hard to understand and hard to imagine how the Green Investment Bank would be the vehicle that you are looking for.

Elliott Mannis: Can I provide a different point of view? It is ultimately not for me to judge; I am not setting the remit for the Bank. I imagine it in two ways. First of all, I think the Green Investment Bank will quite naturally look at a hierarchy or a list of competing projects. It will look at the aggregate amount that can be saved, and then on the margin of what is the cost per tonne of CO2 saved it will see where woodland features in that list. We would argue—we would say this, wouldn't we?—that the price of saving a tonne of carbon invested in woodland is competitive against a range of other alternates, but that judgment needs to be—

Q169   Zac Goldsmith: Even in this country?

Elliott Mannis: Even in this country. There is a secondary point above and beyond just the broad mix, which will depend on the remit given to the Bank, and I will make it retail investors. Let's say retail investors are allowed to participate and are able to determine how their monies are utilised, and I will use examples of either a green ISA or a woodland bond, Say I wanted to invest £100 in a woodland bond and I target that money, and the Green Investment Bank has that product, then that money would go directly to the purpose. I agree it wouldn't necessarily have featured in their hierarchy. It is doing it because I want it to. Therefore the Green Investment Bank is not just for tackling the carbon problem: it is serving a broader social purpose at the same time. That is why I think it comes back to what people want that Bank to be and what purpose it is going to serve. Is it just about carbon reduction or is it about getting the population involved in targeting money towards purposes it wants to be seen achieved at the same time?

Q170   Zac Goldsmith: I have a final question. If what you said is true, and I think it is—I have resonance with it—do you need the Green Investment Bank in order to facilitate those investments? If the demand is there, if you were to create the financial opportunities for people to invest in, why do you then need the Green Investment Bank?

Elliott Mannis: I think there is an opportunity that the Green Investment Bank provides by the nature of its scale and the momentum it will necessarily have, where it can address not just woodland—I am here arguing that point today—but you could make the point about community scale projects or a whole host of different things where, in and of themselves, it is quite difficult for them to attract sufficient attention. We make the case, for example, about wanting to double woodland cover over the next 50 years. Numerous organisations have lauded that as being a great and worthy thing to do. If we are going to create public momentum around objectives like that, it does need a means of packaging the investment and making it available to the general population. An individual organisation like the Woodland Trust would struggle to do that on its own account, but if it is able to work in co-operation with the Green Investment Bank or the Co-op Bank or some other body that has the broad reach and the ability to use financial instruments—the Woodland Trust is not a bank—then there is ability to create something that we don't have today in terms of momentum, targeted investment, greater public involvement and carbon reduction at the same time.

Chair: We can see all kinds of partnerships coming out of our evidence session this afternoon.

Q171   Neil Carmichael: On that point, are you sure you are going to get the return from investment in woodland, which would be necessary to make the Green Investment Bank grow itself? That is one of the objectives of the £1 billion put in as seed funding for other investments to plough back into the Green Investment Bank so that it becomes bigger and bigger. Would it not be easier to just turn your attention to, for example, the Forestry Commission or whatever? They are currently giving out grants to plant trees effectively free of charge, when you extrapolate it out.

Elliott Mannis: There are a number of different aspects here. One of the things the Woodland Trust espouses is the restoration of planted ancient woodland sites and the planting of native broadleaf trees. When the Forestry Commission was created, it was about creating a strategic stock of woodland and that was principally through conifers. Again, one gets back to objectives and how one wants to see money utilised. I am in danger of repeating a point I made previously, so I apologise. Woodland creation does deliver a modest return. It is exemplified by numerous financial instruments you can see through other institutions today. It is going to deliver probably modest single-digit returns over the long term and great stability at the same time. We make the point simply: do we think this is the only thing an individual, a Green Investment Bank or anybody should invest in? Absolutely not. But is it one of a number of things one could and should do? Absolutely, yes. More importantly, what it does provide is that social environment to complement the built-in infrastructure environment so that there is a balance in broad society terms.

Q172   Caroline Lucas: I wanted to come back to the community scale. I have a question primarily for Richard Wilcox. In your evidence you suggested that the Bank had an "enabling role" that encourages communities to come forward with their own energy solutions. For example, in Brighton we have the Brighton Energy Co-op of which I am a member. In Oxfordshire they have something similar. These things are, as you know, springing up all over the country. I wondered how, in particular, you see the Green Investment Bank going about providing that "enabling role" to those community-based energy initiatives, whether or not it is primarily a financial thing or whether it is also all of the kind of business advice and hand-holding, because these are usually people that don't necessarily have any experience in this at all. They just have a great deal of commitment and willingness to try to make it happen.

Richard Wilcox: I am glad you have made that point because I absolutely agree. Just by way of example, we funded a community scheme on Tiree, which is one of the Hebridean Islands, which was about a megawatt of installed onshore wind. It was the first community scheme that was funded commercially and also with the lottery. It took four years to get through all the planning and environmental matters, but at the end of that the people who did it were the UK's expert on delivering small community schemes. They got inundated with calls from every community group wanting to talk to them. Bless them, they did that, but it just shows that there is a real lack of somewhere to go for community groups to get sound, impartial advice as to how to deliver these schemes. For me, it's a really crucial role for the Green Investment Bank and something that doesn't cost too much money either. We are not talking hundreds of millions of pounds to set up an advice centre for community groups. It is really important, so I absolutely agree with you.

Prashant Vaze: Can I just endorse that and say that there are probably two or three specific things it can do. If you think about the kind of challenges that face community groups trying to bring their projects forward, one is lack of knowledge or understanding of the electricity markets. At the moment there are only one or two companies who will enter into long-term contracts with smallish scale providers. It is important that an institution has that kind of knowledge of how the system works and they can quickly direct people to the one or two suppliers that will buy their electricity. The second thing, as you mentioned earlier, is the contracts sort of stuff. Often in very, very small deals, there is the cost of getting the legals sorted out, the cost of making sure you are getting a correct deal from your point of view, that the risk has been correctly allocated and all those kind of things. It is very boring and very tedious, but unfortunately somebody has to do it and quite a lot depends on that. It would be helpful if the Green Investment Bank had that kind of in-house team skilled at structuring these kinds of contracts, to make sure that if it is a wind-based project it is not unduly jeopardised because of the nature of wind projects.

Richard Wilcox: I was involved in the early stages of the PFI market. That was very similar in the sense that one school project would get done in Bolton and another school project would get done in Rochdale, and they wouldn't talk to each other. There would be different funders and different structures. It was taking ages to get these things done. Then the Treasury task force came in, and PFUK, PPP and all sorts of different organisations came in. What came out of that was standard documentation and a clear understanding of exactly how these schemes work; and the market took off from that. It enabled what was four years to get to financial close to come down to 12 months to get to financial close.

Q173   Caroline Lucas: Can I just check out that you don't see any tension between the different scales that it sounds as if we envisage this bank operating at? On the one hand Zac was talking earlier about the low-hanging fruit, the big buck that needs to be done very quickly, versus something that sounds a lot more like hand-holding at a very local level with maybe 30 people who don't know one end of a balance sheet from another necessarily. I am speaking for myself rather than being rude about them, but people who are starting without any experience necessarily at all.

Richard Wilcox: That is why I say I think the Green Investment Bank is a two-stage process. It absolutely is about the large scale, but that is capital market people looking at structural changes in the economy. That is going to take 10 years. Outside that there are an awful lot of things that they can do, such as the advice; such as bringing the banks and the pension funds together; such as the issue about aggregation. All these things which are non-capital intensive can still get done, but they require people with expertise.

Q174   Caroline Lucas: Are you confident that Treasury and others recognise the potential for this smaller scale stuff as well as the big scale stuff?

Richard Wilcox: I can't speak for Treasury.

Q175   Peter Aldous: I think all three of you have given some very good examples of what can be done in a community at the micro level. How is the Green Investment Bank going to engage with those communities? I am assuming that we are not going to have the Green Investment Bank popping up in the High street with a branch, as it were. How do you envisage that problem being tackled?

Richard Wilcox: I hope not too, but I do think there is a requirement for regional representation or sub-national, or however many people you are going to do. Going back to the point I made before about different energy needs in different areas, it is important that you have people in north-east Scotland who understand those local needs, and people in the south-west of England and in Wales. All the different areas will have different needs, and you can't control that from London, Edinburgh or anywhere else. Yes, control in one central place but regional representation absolutely.

Prashant Vaze: I would possibly take a different view. You can have all different types of projects out there. Often a small wind project is a small wind project; a hydro project is a hydro project. I do wonder whether we do need regional representation. It would certainly significantly increase the costs. If you look at examples in other countries, again I talk about GfK. I think that was pretty much Frankfurt based. As regards the EBRD, my understanding is that they work quite closely with the retail banks in countries they lend to. In a way it has a slightly different function and is trying to develop that from the skilled capability in those countries. I am not sure I agree there is a necessity of having regional representation. Certainly it would push up the costs. With regard to the way it would interact, if it is a competent bank it would be looking at the admin costs in doing the different deals and work out for itself if it is a sensible cut-off. I don't know what that number is. I suspect it is not at an individual house level. I hope it is not £10 million either. It is somewhere in between. I think that could possibly make sense, but it is really for the bank to assess that, minimise the administrative costs and get the genuine participation of communities.

Elliott Mannis: I will give a slightly different take on that. I think there are two or possibly three distinct points for the bank. If you think of capitalising the bank and where that money is going to come from, that can be done in quite a compact and concise fashion. I am not a banker; I am not an expert. But I would imagine getting the money from Treasury, getting the money from pensions and other institutions, can be done fairly easily and centrally. I can imagine, to the extent the bank wants to engage with the greater public, that could be done in an online fashion. If one wanted to buy a woodland bond or a green bond or whatever it is, that is easily facilitated in the same way as one does other similar online instruments now. That is one side of the balance sheet of the bank. The other piece is about the distribution and the application of capital. It is a personal view, but like a lot of institutions it needs a mind of management in one central place. I am suspicious that that would be London, but it does need to have people who are accessible where they need to be. I think the example of having offices in Scotland and Wales, or where particular areas of excellence or activity are focused, would make eminent sense, but one needs to think about how the capital is going to be deployed. It is hard to answer the question without knowing precisely what it is that is going to be done and what the remit is.

Q176   Peter Aldous: Would it be a stand-alone office, do you think, or a Government office for that particular region or—I don't know—in one of the High Street banks, which, after all, we do own?

Elliott Mannis: Personally I think it needs to be a stand-alone institution, but however that is physically deployed it needs to be done in a cost-efficient fashion. I think there are perils if it was seen to be associated too closely with any other institution, be it a High Street bank or Government, for that matter. It should be charged and given a remit to do something on its own two feet, and should be seen to be independent as such.

Q177   Zac Goldsmith: I wanted to ask Richard, as I understand it, the EBRD has quite a strict cap around the 30% mark, but I may be wrong, on how much of a project they can invest in; so they necessarily need to have partners. The reason they do that is to avoid having to have a local presence throughout Europe. It means that they can rely on the due diligence of the partners that they are working with. As I understand it, most of the people you have spoken to seem to suggest that that is the kind of model that the Green Investment Bank will also pursue. It wouldn't want to be the sole investor. If that is the case, would you still believe there would be a need for that regional or local presence?

Richard Wilcox: Yes, but I am not talking about a huge presence in the regions. I think it is important that there be some representation. I am not talking about replicating teams in different parts of the country, but I think, especially when you are talking about community groups, unfortunately there is a bit of hand-holding needed. Yes, they can access online; yes, they can talk to a central team, wherever it is; but I do think to go out and see the local conditions is important. I do tend to disagree with Prashad. A wind deal is not a wind deal; a hydro deal is not a hydro deal. They have shared common characteristics, but they are different wherever they are. Have a central point of excellence but with some regional representation.

Prashant Vaze: I think this does get at the nub of "What is it there for?" If you see it as primarily a bank—which is essentially to do things like contract with the money markets, a Treasury function, do risk profiling—for that kind of stuff I don't think you would want it to have regional representation. Bear in mind that the EBRD is based in London. The last time I looked it's not anywhere near its field of operation. It is possible to do these things remotely. I think the EIB is established in Luxembourg, so again it is quite normal for these kinds of operations to take place in a centralised fashion.

  You mentioned whether it has a retail presence in terms of getting in savings. In our submission we suggested NS&I might be a mechanism for doing this. That already has an internet presence and it also uses the Post Office networks. In a way it is the most distributed banking network out there already, but that is quite a separate function to the disbursement function.

Chair: I think we wanted to move on to what other things need to be rationalised. I am going to bring in Neil Carmichael on that.

Q178   Neil Carmichael: I have been looking at micro hydro schemes and so forth because I do think that is quite an interesting area. It is certainly the sort of thing in which two of you would be interested. One of the obstructions is the attitude sometimes of the Environment Agency, for example, not least because they are worrying about fish, water flow and so forth. That is one of the obstructions that I see generally which don't help renewable energy. You can see straightaway that there is a conflict within the world of the environment because, clearly, damaging rivers and fish prospects is not constructive either. How do you see that argument and discussion unfolding?

Richard Wilcox: Hydro schemes do have to balance the environmental aspects, but I do agree that sometimes the Environmental Agency could be seen to be going over the top slightly. We funded a scheme where they had to push a fish ladder in at enormous cost and, six months in, nobody has seen a fish. Nobody had seen a fish downstream before that either, but they had to do it. It's balance. Absolutely it shouldn't damage the environment, but I think sometimes people lose perspective and go completely over the top.

Prashant Vaze: I agree with the point you are making. I am not sure if it is an issue for the Green Investment Bank to necessarily be concerned with. In the end there is a project sponsor, and the project sponsor is responsible for securing the kind of permissions and authorisations for this. I completely agree with you. I have looked at a number of micro hydro schemes that seemed interesting. I was just staggered at the amount of cost and bureaucracy it takes for really very, very small projects of a few tens of kilowatts. It is quite outrageous, but that is not a problem for the bank. It is a problem for our planning system and interaction between agencies.

Q179   Neil Carmichael: Are there any areas of infrastructure development or specific priorities that the Green Investment Bank should be working towards? If you are going to have a list of priorities, what would they be essentially?

Chair: Mr Wilcox? Perhaps you could include in that as well, if you are going to try and get the small-scale community-led initiatives off the ground, what Government could do to assist not just on the finances but the other bits that need to be all lined up to get that coming forward.

Richard Wilcox: There are three key things for me. I know this is the boring bank bit, but enabling standard documentation, so really encouraging the banks to get together, maybe through the BBA, to standardise documentation. That will reduce costs enormously. Part of the big problem, as you recognise, is that, if you do each separate facility on new documentation, a new set of lawyers come in and reinvent the wheel every five minutes, it adds huge cost to the project. The economics of the community deals are difficult to do. As I say, it is a bit of a boring technical point but it would be hugely beneficial: standard documentation and a central advice point, going back to Caroline Lucas's point, so somewhere the community can go to talk about how these things get done.

There is the other bit about facilitating it—the holistic approach between the banks and the pension funds—so that we end up, hopefully, with a position where the banks are funding short-term development risk, which is what we should be doing, and the pension funds are taking the long-term income, which is what they want to do. But we have never managed to get together on a holistic basis so far. Even within the PFI market, we never quite managed that, but if GIB can play a part as a catalyst to make that happen that will have quite a beneficial impact.

Prashant Vaze: I agree with those points, but if you don't mind I will answer that question in terms of the technologies because that is another way of interpreting it. The kind of analysis I've seen suggests that some of the lowest hanging fruit—and I think that's the way the thing should be targeted—is on the energy efficiency side of things. I think some of the community level microgeneration schemes are quite attractive as well. There is a particular problem with some of the community level microgeneration, especially on the heat side if they need heat networks. I think that is very, very hard to get funding for at the moment. I know your colleague from Southampton is very aware of that. That is particularly where there are market failure problems and huge capital outlay is necessary.

  I am not close enough, or at least my organisation is not close enough, to know about the electricity investment to have a view on that. My sense is that conventional banking is already pretty good at financing big wind farms, but if they tell you otherwise I'm sure they know better. I would have thought some of the Green Deal behind-the-scenes work for instance on boilerplate wording for unconventional Green Deal providers is very important and financing some of the new heat networks, since they aren't currently regulated.

Q180   Neil Carmichael: Do you see the Green Investment Bank dealing with the smaller-scale things more than the larger-scale things, from what you have just said about the success of the larger corporations getting funding anyway for their schemes?

Prashant Vaze: I think it needs to have a balance on its portfolio. I think it does need to do innovative stuff. There are other market failings other than the aggregation issue we've been talking about. I know some of the earlier stage technologies like carbon capture and storage do have genuine challenges. They are quite hard to balance. I personally don't think it should be solely in community energy or anything like that, but I think it should certainly be for the Bank to make those decisions with an eye to bringing on technologies and also delivering carbon.

Q181   Neil Carmichael: Most people who are in favour of the Green Investment Bank make two or three points. One is that you have to have the expertise in a Green Investment Bank. One or two of you have alluded to that by reference, for example, to the EIB and EBRD, which actually has the same sort of functions and capacities. Secondly, there is the creation of a secure market so investors look around and say, "Actually it's worth investing in this because people will be buying the output"—security of market, essentially. A third area is the need to upscale or improve research and development. You have also, to some extent, touched upon that because at the end of the day there are certain sectors that we just don't have in this country now.

  Earlier this week we were talking about—in a completely different venue and subject area—where is the electronic sector if we are going to start having electric cars and so forth? Does the Green Investment Bank have a role to play there? You can apply the same logic to the technologies that you're talking about. Do you agree with that, and do you think that the Green Investment Bank looks as though it's going to be able to do those three things?

Richard Wilcox: I will comment on a couple of those. Skills shortages I absolutely agree with. There is a real need for specialist bankers, lawyers and engineers. There are not enough of them in the sector; so I agree with that. There is the issue about raising funds. Going back to the small scale—and I know I keep talking about aggregation—if you do that, then it's proof of concept so that when you go to the point at which the Green Investment Bank is looking to raise public bonds there is a track record there of having done them, albeit smaller. But at least there is a track record there, and the more track record you've got, the lower the cost of funds. It goes back to this point about not waiting 10 years for carbon capture and storage or tidal or whatever to be commercially fundable. There are lots of things you can do in the meantime.

Prashant Vaze: On the skills, I absolutely agree. I used to work in central Government and it's always been a frustration that people move around, and as soon as you have a group of people who actually know what they're talking about they seem to move job. I think something with a bit more permanence and a genuine career structure in an institution basically that has that kind of skill is very desirable.

  The second point I want to rephrase a little bit. Rather than the size, I think there are some technologies or some kinds of interventions that don't have a very spectacular return but are quite low risk. Things like solar installation might be one of those. It is important that at least in the early stages somebody makes those kinds of investments early on. The venture capitalist is never going to come in because the rate of return is just not there. You are not going to get people on "Dragon's Den" saying, "Let's go for this one." I think it's important that somebody needs to look a bit more strategically and say, "This is a big carbon opportunity; no great risk; no great return; we need to develop this."

  I have forgotten what the third point you made was; I am sorry.

Q182   Neil Carmichael: A secure market; market security, basically. It is putting that platform down where investors think, "Look, I can go into this market because there is going to be something there for my customers."

Prashant Vaze: Yes. I had a very, very depressing meeting once with Goldman Sachs, where it was telling us to "all pile into biofuels". I thought, "I can't believe you are so naive to think that's a good idea. This was four years ago," but that's what it was telling its investors. It is important that somebody does have that kind of credibility, not just with the market—which is important because they needed to refinance it every time they issued bonds—but also with the community who care about the outcomes. My slight fear is that some of the standard banks are much more interested in the bottom line and much less interested in the outcome. In a way the Green Investment Bank can straddle that and have knowledge of the markets, make sure that these are viable projects in their own right but also think about the outcomes too.

Q183   Mr Spencer: It doesn't matter whatever project you come forward with, at some point you meet a planner—the planning department. I just wondered whether you thought the Green Investment Bank had a role in advising the planning system. I know Government is looking to reform that. Should the Green Investment Bank be helping to assist that reform of the planning system?

Richard Wilcox: Anybody who could help—that would be gratefully received. Yes, I do, because it is a major blockage. It can take an awful lot of money and an awful lot of time to get schemes through. When they are smaller schemes, that has a disproportionate effect on the marginal cost of those schemes. Maybe there is something there about saying that you assume a positive response for smaller-scale community schemes, or where you can see community benefit there is a useful position to support them. There may be something that could be done there.

Prashant Vaze: I agree with the sentiments but I'm not entirely sure what the Green Investment Bank could do. I can think of many, many projects—waste incineration plants—where there is a lot of heavy duty capital behind it, so it is not lack of capital that is the issue; it's the planner. I don't really know what you had in mind, but anything that can unblock it would be a good idea.

Q184   Mr Spencer: It is whether the Green Investment Bank, I suppose, had a role in shaping the Government legislation as it moves forward, in changing the planning system into the new planning system we're going to end up with, or do you just carry on as you are and not get involved in that process?

Richard Wilcox: Just picking up Mr Goldsmith's point before, there is a danger that it becomes all things to all men and we are looking to the Green Investment Bank to solve every possible problem that we have. I think there is a link between planning and renewable energy generation because it's clearly a problem, but whether that's the role of GIB or whether it's the role of Government to support GIB in that is perhaps a moot point.

Prashant Vaze: I think the announcement that Chris Huhne made a few months ago was basically saying that local government can retain or keep the first few years of business rates. Having that kind of direct financial incentive for local governments to give planning permission is probably more important than anything that some planner in a nice suit in London can do; I don't know.

Mr Spencer: Am I allowed to digress, Chair, like everyone else?

Chair: I think the Committee will forgive you if it is a short digression.

Q185   Mr Spencer: One of you made a comment, I think, in response to one of Neil's questions that you wouldn't allow something that damaged the environment. The one that came to mind immediately for me was the Severn barrier, and whether that benefits the environment all comes down to interpretation, doesn't it, and how difficult those debates become? That is more of a comment than a question.

Elliott Mannis: It probably is. I'm not sure the Green Investment Bank does have a locus in the planning system, but I think the inevitable balancing that needs to be done through the planning process is that people want to deliver a net good through the various projects that the Green Investment Bank will be facilitating or enabling. Inevitably, there are environmental and other issues that need to be balanced in the equation. One is going to have to take a view in the round. Putting up a wind project could be a great thing to do, and if it was to tear up hectares of woodland at the same time there might be a good debate round this little table. The planning system is there for a reason and I think it needs to weigh up those various interests.

Q186   Neil Carmichael: Do you think local government, local authorities, should be given the green light to invest more in small-scale energy and energy efficiency? Of course, they have prudential borrowing powers under the 2000 Local Government Act and they may well want to develop those through the Green Investment Bank.

Richard Wilcox: A very quick answer: yes. Picking up Prashant's comment before, there is a big role for the public sector and local authority generally in terms of heat and energy efficiency. The more you can get the public sector brought into that, the better. Whether that is direct investment or whether that's supporting as a keystone user in some district heating schemes or combined heat and power boilers retrofitting into public sector buildings, there's a huge part for the public sector to play.

Prashant Vaze: My answer is yes as well, but with a proviso. I have talked to a number of local authorities about why they don't make greater use of prudential borrowing in order to do the kind of stuff we all care about. The answer that we typically get back is that they, too, are under quite a lot of capital pressures and they have to prioritise where they spend their scarce capital too. In the end they have to justify it to their principal finance officer. Local authorities, in common with some of the social housing providers, tend to prioritise capital spend on things that they absolutely must do, and it is hard to get those through as well. A social housing provider will first do things like decent homes, and then probably do stuff like addressing the kind of people that are currently unhoused in that area. Each of these will have quite good rates of return on them as well in terms of their function. I think local government is in the same position.

Chair: I want to focus our attention on the final aspects of maximising the beneficial impacts of the Green Investment Bank. If we could return to that, it would be helpful.

Neil Carmichael: My question, alas, was a digression. I sometimes do that, to be honest. I think this Committee has noticed that.

Chair: I think we are learning.

Q187   Neil Carmichael: You've already mentioned the question that it's not just investment and return for investment but the impact it has on the environment and on the people around the environment—the communities and so forth. I have one last question to you all. If we expect the Green Investment Bank to measure such things and effectively put that as a part of the investment, how do we expect them to measure it and how do we expect them to deliver the outcomes that they then actively create for themselves?

Elliott Mannis: There is probably a piece that is outwith the Green Investment Bank in terms of direction. It probably needs to come from Government overall, but it seems to me that in the broader remit that needs to be delivered there is a series of outcomes. Those might be around woodland, they might be around renewable energy sources, but there is this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a step change in how we want to see things done in the UK and how we want it to be. It seems to me that it's almost impossible to deliver a remit to the Green Investment Bank without having some policy directive at the same time in terms of broad outcomes, because the Green Investment Bank is an implementation tool. It is an instrument of policy but it's not policy itself. The interweaving of those two things is very important. One could do something as simple as saying, "We're not going to have any cars other than hydrogen or fuel cell or electric cars by 2025." You can deliver those hierarchical top-down objectives and then it is down to the Bank and a bunch of others as to how they get that done.

  In terms of weighing up the balance and how you measure it, I go back to my point before about extractive industries. There are tools to account for things in a broader social context other than the way we just do traditional accounting today. I think one of the things a Green Investment Bank can very usefully look at is how one prices projects in the round, not just using the accounting and financial instruments we have today but how you value biodiversity in that broader community and social interest. There are tools to do so and I think the Green Investment Bank, in my view, ought to encompass that broader objective.

Prashant Vaze: Earlier in my career I used to work in developing green national accounts" and I also worked in DEFRA on ecosystem services. I am very, very sensitive to the points you are making, but we are trying to create a bank here. I do slightly worry that you are trying to get too much out of it. At the moment the Government has already set incentives through things like the feed-in tariff and renewable heat incentives to adjust prices to exactly that, to get a better alignment between the returns a banker might make and the broader kind of concerns that we have. I think you are right: we need to specify a list of things that the Green Investment Bank is concerned about. In the end, if it is a bank, it needs to make sure it's viable and got credibility with the markets out there. It is going to fail that if it is diverted too much with other things. Obviously it should be cognisant, aware and make use of all the incentives out there, including structural funds, including capital subsidies, which might help on the forestry side of things. It should do all that, but if you spend too much time trying to micro manage it, it's losing its way a little bit. That's my feeling.

Q188   Neil Carmichael: Surely the alternative view would be for a community to come up with a project, tick all the boxes—like, for example, community involvement and looking after the environment—and the Green Investment Bank coming along and saying, "Yes, that looks a good project." It is a bit like a glorified 106 arrangement with planning permission, for instance. That would be a good way of achieving the same things without the bank itself having to measure and, as you say, effectively depart from or even basically being a bank.

Richard Wilcox: At the end of the day it is a bank. It shouldn't go too far away from that model, but it doesn't mean that it can't have a balanced approach. I am bound to say this, but we are a mutual organisation. We are a co-operative bank. We are about financial sustainability but we operate to a balanced scorecard. That means we are more than just that. There is no reason why the Green Investment Bank can't do the same. It is just important that you get the mandate right at the outset and then you have very transparent and clear guidelines.

Chair: Finally, one last question from Dr Whitehead.

Q189   Dr Whitehead: This is perhaps a rather naive question. The fact that it is a bank, it will be a bank and it therefore will have to take decisions in order to ensure its own survival—and it will be an independent bank and therefore it will not be directed in the sense that, say, an investment fund or a grant-making body might be—would mean that you may well have a number of proposals which will come before it which will be good investments but not very green. Then there will be other proposals that are pretty green but are not very good investments. Is there a case that the bank may say to itself, "Well, in order to aggregate out our own investment portfolio so that we survive as a bank, we'll have some pretty un-green things that we will put our money into, and then we will be able to help the much more green things on the back of the not very green things that we put the money into in the first place", and thereby carry out its remit? Is that a conceivable model that you would see going forward for the Bank?

Richard Wilcox: Just because it is a bank doesn't mean you can't trust it entirely. The two things don't have to go hand-in-hand. Seriously though, I think it's just all about getting the mandate right at the outset and then monitoring it. There always will be those tensions, but that's down to whoever manages the Bank to manage those tensions.

Prashant Vaze: If you get the mandate right at the outset, as Richard suggests, with things like social equity, concern about rural areas—you get those kinds of things right and I think those are important—that should be the main way the controls exist. If you are trying to get money off retail investors, which is something we suggest in our submission, I think it is important that we don't divert too far away from what a retail investor would expect a bank to invest in. We did a report—this one here—called "Green Expectations", and there is a confusion that people have about what the term "Green" means. If you are expecting consumers to put money into this in any way or form, you do need to be very, very specific about what kind of things will be invested into. So controversial ones like carbon capture and storage or potentially nuclear might jar against people's expectations.

Chair: I am afraid there we must leave it. The aim of this session was to try and see what evidence we could get that would help us to make sure that when there is a Green Investment Bank it can actually reach out and be valued by people right the way across the UK and not just looking at the big investment decisions. Thank you very much indeed. I know there has been a lot of detailed evidence, but thank you very much indeed for your contribution.




 
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