Bank ‘can help deliver region’s green hopes’

Greg Barker, minister of State for Climate Change, with Bradford University Vice-Chancellor Mark Cleary
Greg Barker, minister of State for Climate Change, with Bradford University Vice-Chancellor Mark Cleary
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CLIMATE Change Minister Greg Barker has promised the Government’s Green Investment Bank (GIB) is ready to support Yorkshire’s ambitions to be at the centre of the green energy revolution.

Mr Barker said the coalition was still committed to giving the GIB the crucial capital borrowing powers many see as critical to its long-term future.

But he insisted the Government was already making an impact by supporting projects and helping to lever in foreign investment in the green sector.

The GIB yesterday revealed that in the five months since it launched it had invested £635m of its £3bn of start-up funding in projects together worth £2.3bn.

It also signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates last week which will see it invest alongside the bank on green projects.

Concerns have been raised, however, that the GIB has not been given the freedom to raise additional funds from the capital markets and the Treasury will resist any move that could add borrowing to the Government’s balance sheet.

Mr Barker said: “The Green Investment Bank is already much bigger than anyone suggested at the General Election, £3bn of its own capital which it is putting to work in the real economy.

“In due course I am absolutely certain it will have access to London capital markets but already it is proving that you can use smart public funding to leverage in a far greater amount of private sector investment and I expect that model to develop and grow.

“It’s only been up and running for a matter of months but I already think it is going to be seen as one of the key successes of this Government.”

The Government has faced criticism for failing to offer certainty on key energy policies, making it harder for the private sector to go ahead with major projects in Yorkshire.

Mr Barker said: “We have now created the long-term framework which gives unprecedented stability and visibility for Government support to the renewable sector for the next decade and our electricity market reforms will give business that certainty.

“The Prime Minister has given explicit instructions to Ministers to win the business and investment that will drive economic development in the supply chain.

“It is not enough just to generate renewable electricity, we have to make sure it is done on the back of a UK supply chain.

“We need to make sure we pull in maximum investment to get the maximum potential for regional economies out of this big strategic push on renewables.”

The Minister was speaking after visiting The Green, student accommodation on the University of Bradford campus which was a winner in last year’s Yorkshire Post environment awards.

The building is insulated and airtight to minimise the need for heating and uses solar power to provide hot water as well as rainwater to flush toilets.

The residential blocks were built with sustainable timber while displays tell students how much power they are using.

Mr Barker said: “It is a very exciting project because it is pushing boundaries for innovative low-carbon buildings and also doing that cheaper than building a bog standard student development.

“That shows that low-carbon developments are smashing through economic barriers that have held them back in the past.

“Gone are the days when low-carbon buildings would be nice to have but expensive. We have now shown the smart choice for financial and environmental reasons is to go green and it can be an engine for growth in the wider economy.

“The Yorkshire Post is absolutely right to shine a spotlight on this type of green success because it not only makes us feel good that we are doing the right thing by the planet but over the last two years the low-carbon goods and services sector has accounted for nearly a third of all growth in the economy and is growing by around five per cent year on year when other sectors are struggling.”

The Green was designed by GWP Architecture which last year won the Built Environment – Projects Over £1m category in the Yorkshire Post Environment Awards.

John Wybor, director at GWP, said: “It was great to win the award. It is nice to be recognised for trying to improve things.

“The Green is not just highly sustainable, anyone can do that at a vast cost, it is also very affordable and that is the important message.”