This article was first published in the Edinburgh Evening News on 22 July 2015.
In March 2012 it was announced that Edinburgh had beaten almost 30 other UK cities to win the headquarters of the UK Green Investment Bank. It was a campaign that succeeded on the strength of a broad coalition of supporting organisations, a cross-party political consensus and the benefits of Scotland’s capital as a business location. Since then GIB, the first organisation of its type in the world, has grown to have almost 50 staff based here.
We have also, of course, been busy investing in green infrastructure projects across Scotland. So far, 10 of the 50 projects we’ve backed have benefitted Scotland: a range of new green technologies including low-energy street lighting, waste and recycling, heat recovery, green power plants, energy-efficient distilleries and car parks, small-scale onshore wind and hydro power.
At the end of June the UK Government announced a new chapter for GIB. They stated their intention, as the Bank’s sole shareholder, to move us into private ownership. That means they will reduce their stake so that GIB is no longer classified as public body.
That is big news for us and the many stakeholders who fought so hard to bring us into existence. Some people have concerns about the announcement, as reported in the Evening News. They are worried a reduction in the Government stake might reduce our commitment to our green mission or create uncertainty over our Edinburgh headquarters and the jobs we have here. I understand these concerns. But I believe we can successfully attract new investors while remaining every bit committed to our mission and our Edinburgh headquarters.
I believe this for one simple reason. Our green mission and business model is what makes us special. Investors will back us because of it, not in spite of it. We have a great business with a great team based in Edinburgh. Investors will, I believe, want to build on that.
Our ambitions for GIB are bigger than the business we currently have. We are now investing around £800m each year and will soon run out of the £3.8bn of capital from the UK Government. That’s why we need to attract new investors so we can commit to more projects in more parts of the green economy. The introduction of new capital from private investors is, we believe, the best way to do that. The business we built is now being replicated across the world. New green banks are following our lead everywhere from New York to Australia to China. Our focus now is to build on our success by increasing the impact we can have by investing more money in more projects. We have a winning formula – it’s in everyone’s interest that we protect every part of that as we grow.
Shaun Kingsbury is chief executive of the Green Investment Bank.