More ‘green’ cash to come, says Co-op

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The head of a North West banking group which has ploughed hundreds of millions into small renewable energy projects has revealed it is looking at pumping in more cash.

Richard Wilcox, head of renewables at the Co-operative Bank, said the lender would be pumping £200m into the industry this year and was also looking to expand its 14-strong team of renewables experts.

The bank expects to use up the £400m of cash it ring-fenced in 2007 to fund renewable energy and carbon reduction projects, including onshore wind projects and combined heat and power systems.

Mr Wilcocx said it continued to be “inundated” with enquiries from community projects and smaller developers eager to utilise the new feed-in tariff regime brought in by the Government last month.

He said: “This will be the culmination of phase one of our commitment and in the next few months we are looking at plans to take us through 2011 and beyond. The feed-in tariff which came into force last month has created a long-term guarantee of exporting energy into the National Grid which has led to a real take off in these kind of projects.

“In other parts of the world these small micro-renewable projects are a major part of energy generation and while the UK maybe behind the game in a sense, we are running to catch up.”

He said that the way the feed-in tariff was “skewed” also opened up a huge opportunity for individual homeowners to produce their own power.

Mr Wilcox said: “In the past it would have taken nearly 30 years for the cost of a solar panel to pay back.

“Today it is nearer 10 years.”

Gerald Waterfield, senior corporate manager at the Co-operative’s Lancashire Corporate Banking Centre, said he had seen renewable energy become “increasingly attractive” due to the moves by the government.

The commitment made by the Co-operative yesterday coincided with an announcement from the North West Development Agency that it has £2m of grants available to develop carbon-reducing technologies.

Chief executive Steven Broomhead said it was working with Envirolink North West to fund companies working on waste treatment and recycling, water pollution, air pollution, land remediation and energy generation and efficiency.