Green Investment Bank

The Australian investment firm Macquarie promised to invest £3 billion in green projects and made other concessions in order to clinch the purchase of the Green Investment Bank from the government. However, the sale, in which the group will pay £2.3 billion, was criticised yesterday. Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G, a think tank that developed the idea of the bank, said that it was “reckless” because it would dampen investment in clean energy projects. Ed Davey, the former Liberal Democrat energy secretary, said that it was “environmentally irresponsible”.

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The charge that Macquarie is a ruthless asset-stripper that, given half a chance, would dismember the Green Investment Bank clearly stung. As the government unveiled the inevitable sale, for £2.3bn, to a consortium led by the Australian finance house, all sides were anxious to emphasise the buyer’s long-term enthusiasm for its new purchase. GIB will survive as a discrete entity in Edinburgh. Macquarie will throw a few of its own assets – a couple of windfarms and a waste and biomass plant – into the mix for it to manage. It will report on progress in honouring GIB’s green investment principles. It will aim to invest £1bn a year in green energy projects, more than the £700m-ish that GIB was achieving via taxpayer funding. “We look forward to seeing these commitments from Ma cquarie delivered, in full, in the months and years ahead,” said Lord Smith of Kelvin, GIB’s chair. We all look forward to that, naturally. But “commitments” overstates matters. What the government has really secured is a collection of good intentions. It is almost impossible to know how firmly Macquarie can be held to them. Not very, one suspects.

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Published: 21 April 2017