Australia’s green bank is accelerating its push into the electric vehicle and battery storage market, signing its first major financial deal with a non-bank lender that will target cheap loans for green products such as EVs, rooftop solar arrays and battery storage.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation says it will provide $50 million to FirstMac, a non-bank lender with a $6.5 billion portfolio that issues finance primarily via on-line portals.
The deal follows financing agreements with two of the big four banks – $120 million with NAB and Commonwealth – that also targets low emissions transport as well as solar systems, battery storage and energy-efficient equipment.
The idea is to offer cheaper finance to buyers of these products. To some on the best credit rating, it will be up to 25 per cent cheaper than for “non-green” products.
Meg McDonald, the deputy CEO of the CEFC, says the aim is to establish a new asset class in Australia that can then attract financing initiatives such as securitisation (where loans are packaged up and sold as bonds, or in this case green bonds) and bring in more investment.
“What we are doing is creating this as an identifiable asset class in the minds of financing circles,” McDonald said. “Because right now it is not. We are trying to prove it is an asset class, and a rapidly growing one.”
Indeed, green bonds is a growing asset class around the world, forecast to top $100 billion in 2015, and up to $1 trillion in 2020, as financiers turn their focus to low-carbon and energy-efficient assets.
Around half of the $50 million available to FirstMac will be reserved for low emission vehicles. The uptake of EVs in Australia has been quite slow, despite the recent success of the Tesla Model S, but more models are now entering the market and prices are expected to fall.
“Private buyers are increasingly switching to cleaner cars and, under this program, we are looking to accelerate this trend as more new models come on line,” Oliver Yates, the CEO of the CEFC, said in a statement.
“This program is also designed to stimulate interest from business and government fleet managers in purchasing low emissions and electric vehicles.
“If every new car buyer chose the lowest emissions car available, our national average carbon emissions from vehicles would improve by 50 per cent.”
FirstMac managing director Kim Cannon said the financing will also help increase the commercial uptake for residential rooftop solar PV and inverters.
Leasing for solar thermal, including for hot water, and for batteries that form part of a solar installation, is also eligible. It will also target energy-efficient equipment, from heating, ventilation and air conditioning, to refrigeration, LED and lighting.
The CEFC financing will initially focus on FirstMac’s existing 25,000 mortgage customers, particularly for vehicle and solar opportunities. Additional consumer interest is expected to be driven by its online platform and its network of brokers and equipment manufacturers.