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Macquarie Bank funds solar leasing for public housing … in Britain

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UK public-housing contractor, Herbert T Forrest Ltd, will receive as much as $US197 million from Australia’s Macquarie Bank to fund zero upfront cost solar-power installations across Britain, reports Bloomberg.

The northern England-based company says it will use the funds over three years to install panels on residential rooftops at no upfront cost, a deal it will offer to both social-housing tenants and private homeowners.

AspleyPanels214Customers taking advantage of the deal would give up the associated subsidies – feed-in tariffs, or fixed above-market rates for clean energy – earned by the new solar systems, which would go towards repaying the bank.

As Bloomberg notes, offers like these once helped fuel a UK solar boom, until renewable energy incentives were cut in April last year. “Macquarie, which already supports Freetricity Plc’s free solar plans, is helping fuel a revival.”

Such a revival would, presumably, also be welcomed by the industry in Australia, where clean energy subsidies have been pared back dramatically over the past two years, and where the solar leasing model remains in its infancy.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency recently said it was looking at mechanisms to attract just the sort of capital that Macquarie is now applying in the UK. While there remains debate about whether leasing schemes would be attractive to home owners with a mortgage, ARENA says there would be huge opportunity in houses with low incomes, or which are rented.

Back in the UK, Forrest says it will initially offer the PV installation deal to tenants of the public housing units it manages in northern England, the Midlands and Wales. It then plans to open it up to private homes and social housing partners in Scotland and southern England.

The company launched its clean energy unit in 2011 to benefit from the introduction of subsidies, and has installed 6,000 solar photovoltaic systems so far.

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