Triodos Bank’s Executive Board provides a perspective on the wider world it operates in, its impact and activity in 2016 and its prospects for the future.
Triodos Bank and its investment funds, offered via Triodos Investment Management, finances enterprises that augment the use of renewable resources in particular and supports projects that reduce the demand for energy and promote energy efficiency.
By the end of 2016, Triodos Bank and its climate and energy investment funds were financing 381 projects (2015: 358), contributing to a generating capacity of 2,400 MW of energy (2015: 2,100 MW). During the year these projects avoided 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, while generating green energy equivalent to the electricity needs of 1.2 million European households (2015: 1 million).
So for each Triodos Bank customer, we financed the electricity needs of 1.9 homes.
Our vision and activities
Percentage of our loans and investments to the renewable energy sector
Loans and investments by subsector
Our vision on renewable energy
Triodos Bank considers energy to be a basic human need and therefore something that we need to ensure is being generated and used on a sustainable basis for future generations.
Why how we generate our energy matters
The increasing global demand for energy, concerns over energy security and the impact of global climate change, including the creation of ‘climate refugees’, have become ever-more urgent issues.
We see the potential for renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures to create a more resilient, decentralised and sustainable energy system that’s equipped to deal with these challenges in the future.
European governments are supporting moves in this direction under the EU’s “20-20-20” framework calling for 20% of energy to come from renewable sources, 20% more energy efficiency and 20% less greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020. Worldwide agreement, was reached in 2015 at the Paris Climate Conference, require developed and developing countries alike to limit their emissions to relatively safe levels, of 2C, with an aspiration of 1.5C.
Triodos Bank plays an important role in this effort to increase the impact of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, within this wider context.
By focusing our attention on the deployment of mature technologies such as wind energy and solar power, we are able to make a meaningful contribution to the necessary transition to our energy system.
Having financed renewable energy projects for over 25 years, we have built up a wealth of experience and expertise that is valued by the renewable energy developers and operators who we work with.
We also extend impact by working with more diverse ownership structures such as community renewable energy schemes and financing energy efficiency infrastructure within the built environment.
All of the energy projects that we finance contribute to our vision of a sustainable energy system.
Whether through the installation of new renewable energy generation capacity (from wind, solar or hydro energy) or energy savings and efficiency measures, all of our projects make a meaningful contribution to a more resilient, sustainable and cleaner energy system.
In addition, we take steps beyond are direct work as a bank, to support the transition to a low carbon economy. Since the Paris climate conference in 2015 that has meant working with the Dutch Platform for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF) to develop an open source methodology for financial institutions to account for their carbon footprint. The group is exploring how to link this footprint to science-based climate targets, and Triodos Bank hopes to apply the results of this work to its work internationally.
What challenge was the source of inspiration for your project?
The main challenge was to adapt the project to an area that was undergoing strong development in renewable energies (wind, solar, wood, etc.) by anticipating a technology that was non-existent at the time the project was developed. We had to seek out high wind, we needed a manufacturer who could deliver the machines to a site that lacked suitable access and finally satisfy the specific features of connecting to the network. Clearly, we could not work with the machines that manufacturers were presenting to us 10 years ago. We therefore had to "invent" the machine for this farm.
What innovation did you use to address this problem?
When we talk about innovation, it is primarily from the "landscaping" perspective. When operational, this wind farm would have the tallest wind turbines in France (180 metres to the blade tip), we had to break through the ‘psychological’ ceiling of 150 metres. Just like it had taken 10 years to break through the ceiling of 100m. We spoke about the fact that manufacturers were providing their machines with blades in two pieces so that they could deliver to complicated sites and finally we had an effective and pragmatic discussion with the network manager to find an economically acceptable solution for connecting the farm.
What impact did Triodos Bank have on your company?
In order to support this innovative project, the UNITe Group chose Triodos Bank due to its long-standing competence and expertise in financing wind farms and innovative renewable energy projects in general.
Triodos Bank as an agent was involved in the project as soon as the permissions were obtained, very early in the construction phase. It was the real driving force for the project's group of banks, both in terms of the speed at which it obtained financing agreements and in its ability to move away from traditional approaches to financing renewable energy projects. For example, it incorporated crowdfunding into the finance plan, both for senior debt and capital.
What impact has your company had on your business sector?
The UNITe Group and more specifically its subsidiary that develops wind farms, ALTECH, has risen to seemingly impossible challenges several times. In 2001, we obtained planning permission for a wind farm in the municipality of Boulin en Vendée which, at the time, was the largest farm (20MW) with the tallest turbines and the highest power rating in France... The tourism and financial impact on the municipality would prove to be extremely positive. In 2010-2011, ALTECH once again obtained permissions to build Alstom's prototype offshore wind turbine, HALIADE 150 on the Carnet site in Loire-Atlantique. Finally, in 2017, the wind farm with the tallest wind turbines in France began operating. In short, the UNITe Group, and its subsidiary ALTECH, has demonstrated through its project developments that a sensible approach which respects the local area can be used to overcome all the challenges related to land development.
What has been the local impact of your company on the community?
In the municipalities where the wind park is located, Saint-Secondin and Ferrière-Airoux, we have enjoyed the unfailing support of the local communities, firstly through Mr Baudifier, former Mayor of Saint-Secondin, then with the current Mayor Mr Saumur. With this backing it was, therefore, normal for our approach to be managed with a view to the economy of the catchment area. SMEs and larger companies benefited from the project's economic influence early on, as did local shops and hotels that welcomed the arrival of the construction site staff for a year in a difficult economic context.
Finally, for 11 years, we have provided daily support for the renewable energies education initiatives conducted by the community, whether by participating in awareness days, symposiums or even by opening up some of the wind farm's capital to participatory investment.
How does Triodos Bank share your vision?
Triodos Bank and UNITe share the long-term vision of renewable energy investment and the desire to combine energy transformation and responsible land management. We are working together at renewable energy conferences on how to incorporate crowdfunding into projects in order to promote local investment and to participate in the development of the smart grid (bringing production and end-consumers closer together).
The UNITe Group developed close ties with Triodos Bank during the project's financing phase, which has allowed us to confirm that we share a joint vision of sustainable development.
Garth Wind Limited
What challenge was the inspiration for your project?
Garth Wind Limited is operated by North Yell Development Council, which is a charity dedicated to community development for our area. Our motto - ‘Enterprise, Initiative and Self-Help’ -was adopted a long time ago and this project fits into this aspiration well.
We had been impressed by what other communities were doing with wind power and we felt that this could be a project that we could undertake to provide green energy and to give the community some income. We felt that this could bring enormous benefits to our whole area.
What was your innovation that addresses this problem?
In 2003 it was decided to proceed with a project to build five wind turbines producing 4.5 megawatts of green energy for the Shetland grid, and to earn an income for the community. There have been many problems whilst developing the project, including obtaining a grid connection and planning and land issues. These were a huge challenge for the group, so it is a proud moment for the community now that the windfarm is complete.
What impact has Triodos Bank had on your business?
We chose Triodos Bank because we were aware of their track record in assisting similar projects elsewhere in Scotland, and also because of their experience in working alongside Scottish Development agencies. This, along with the bank’s ethical stance, gave us confidence that they would make a good partner in our venture. The bank was the major lender, and this ensured that the project could go ahead. We have worked very closely with Triodos staff, and their co-operation has ensured the smooth running of the project.
What impact has your business/organisation had on the sector you work in?
The windfarm that we have developed will produce 4.5 megawatts of green energy. This will replace fossil fuel generation in Shetland under a special arrangement with the grid operator. This will also help meet Scottish, UK and European targets for renewable generation.
What impact has your business/organisation had on the community?
North Yell Development Council was formed in the late 1940s, and has engaged with the community to assist development and progress since then. This project was on a much greater scale than anything ever attempted before, and presented huge challenges. The operation has been supported and enabled by volunteers, apart from the employment of a project manager in the latter stages. The whole community took a great interest in the construction phase and have been very supportive despite some short term disruption while work was taking place.
How does Triodos Bank share your vision?
Triodos Bank claim on their website that they offer “sustainable banking, using the power of finance to support projects that benefit people and the planet. We believe that banking can be a powerful force for good: serving individuals and communities as well as building a more sustainable society.”
This statement fits well with the charitable objectives which are the basis of our association’s commitment to our community, and also the old motto, Enterprise, Initiative and Self-Help.
Fortech – Wase Wind
Chris Derde, Manager at Fortech
Which challenge formed the inspiration for your project?
At the end of the last century, the renewable energy wind sector emerged in Denmark and Germany. Technological developments made wind energy an attractive option for electricity generation.
In our own region, the river Waas area in Belgium, we wanted to start harvesting wind power. We started the Wase Wind cooperative with four childhood friends by arranging finance for the wind turbines, both from ourselves and by involving as many people as possible. This also means that we are responsible for their investment.
We make sure that our business is financially healthy, but we do not need to make an excessive profit. Managing the invested money properly and continuing to pioneer are our main tasks – to producing 100% renewable energy – is our goal.
What was the innovation with which this problem was approached?
In 2000, we wanted to start up a renewable energy company with a small group of people. For years, the energy industry had been dominated by mergers and acquisitions and was in the hands of large companies. Both our company form and the technology were new. Our company structure separates ‘Fortech’ from ‘Wase Wind’, which enables us to limit the risks for the co-operators and allows us to supply profitable wind power.
We also chose the most efficient wind turbines. At their commissioning they were the largest and most powerful in the Benelux, driven by cutting-edge technology.
Since we began Wase Wind, it has become a cooperative of 2,000 people who, together, invest in wind power in their own region. The wind power is consumed by these cooperators, both in homes and in local businesses as well as in community buildings, such as sports centres and town halls.
Each customer co-invests and the profit is then also shared between them. Wind energy does sometimes meet with opposition because people have concerns about the visibility, about the shadows from the turbines or the noise they generate. But our neighbours have been our biggest fans, because we maintain close contact with them and address any inconvenience. For example, we throw parties to which everyone is invited and we host 750 students from schools in the region every year.
What effect did Triodos Bank have on the company?
When we obtained the necessary permits in 2004 for our first wind project and started its implementation, the traditional large banks stayed away from financing our project. They had no knowledge of the emerging wind sector. Triodos Bank did however and financed our project with proper conditions.
Triodos Bank also contributed knowledge about aspects including guarantees from the manufacturers that later turned out to be badly needed. Triodos Bank was therefore crucial to the start up of our projects and has remained our partner for the subsequent ones, even when other banks started queueing up to finance later projects.
What effect has the company had on the sector in which it operates?
As pioneers in the Belgian wind sector, we have played a leading role in the Flemish sustainable energy sector organisation ODE (Organisatie Duurzame Energie) and from there started up the Flemish Wind Energy Association.
We soon included all the wind companies operating in Flanders and set up cooperative initiatives with colleagues in Wallonia. VWEA has become the ’voice’ of the wind sector as a result of high-quality consultation in study groups, and is now recognised as such by the government. Thanks to patient and considered consultation within the sector and with the government, wind energy regulations could be refined incrementally, so that the necessary guarantees are provided for both the energy companies and the people they serve.
What effect has the company had on the community?
Three wind turbines alongside a major motorway in Kruibeke, Belgium, have been producing electricity from wind energy since 2005. This production corresponds to half of the household consumption of the 15,000 residents of greater Kruibeke.
The company also constructed the 'Braemland II' wind project on the opposite side of the E17 motorway in Melsele. This has produced green electricity for 2,300 families since 2009. The electricity is offered by the cvba (cooperative) Wase Wind to families and agricultural and other companies in the river Waas area.
How does Triodos Bank share the vision behind the project?
Triodos Bank shares a clear long-term vision on sustainable energy with Wase Wind. In addition to building more capacity from sustainable energy sources, it is important to invest in a more resilient, socially embedded and balanced energy system. New technologies, such as the connecting of the various local players, contribute to the creation of short, efficient and decentralized chains.
The effect is increased further by local embedding in the towns, companies and communities that make use of the energy that’s generated. Sustainable models like Wase Wind’s become about more than the environment alone and also focus on wider social benefits.
Our calculations only measure projects with a direct relationship to our finance or investment activities. Given that we are often the principle funder of a project we include 100% of the impact when we co-finance a project. If it is not possible to record 100% of the energy produced by the facilities we finance or invest in, we use estimates based on wind and solar indexes, if applicable, and exclude projects that are still under construction.
The calculation of CO2 emission avoidance is made using conversion rates (gram CO2 per kWh energy produced) published by the governmental authorities in the countries where we are active, or from the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol Initiative. The conversion rates describe, per country, the grams of CO2 avoided when comparing sustainable energy with the mix of all non-sustainable power plants.
To calculate the average energy use in kWh per household in the countries where we are active, we use the energy efficiency indicators published by the World Energy Council (WEC), which were updated in May 2016.
The ‘Impact per customer’ calculations used throughout the annual report are based on a total of 652,000 customers at the end of 2016.