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Ex-energy minister Barker voices concern over Green Investment Bank sell-off

Former energy minister Lord Greg Barker has written to prime minister Theresa May to voice concerns over the government’s divestment of the Green Investment Bank (GIB) and urge for a rethink.

The planned privatisation of the GIB now looms large with Australian finance giant Macquarie Group to take on the lender as part of a deal expected to be valued at around £2 billion.

Its sale has caught the ire of environmentalist since, in December 2015, the then Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) confirmed that it would have to repeal legislation ensuring that GIB finance would be used for green infrastructure projects to ensure it passes into private ownership.

Despite intense criticism, the sale began in earnest last March with the establishment of a ‘special share’ that BIS secretary Sajid Javid said would enshrine the bank’s green purposes.  This was followed by the nomination of a number of trustees, elected to ensure that the GIB would continue to invest exclusively in green infrastructure projects.

But concerns have once again been raised after The Sunday Telegraph reported that Macquarie’s initial plans for the bank included the sale of whole assets and stakes in green projects, with the GIB’s foothold in wind farms and biomass generators expected to bear the brunt of the sell-off.

The story seemingly attracted Lord Barker’s attention, who took to Twitter on Sunday morning to confirm that he had written to May and request that control of the bank be handed back to ministers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

The letter has not yet been made public, and as such its contents are not known.

Barker's comments over the privatisiation deal follow claims by Scottish ministers last week that the sale of the Edinbugh-based institution was 'deeply troubling', while Labour's shadow BEIS secretary Clive Lewis and former BIS secretary Vine Cable have also both expressed their concerns.

As well as large, centralised energy generation assets the GIB has been a much-used source of finance for public bodies and local councils looking to decarbonise their services. In the last year recipients of GIB loans have included NHS Trusts and various local councils, funding measures from LED retrofit programmes to the installation of on-site generation technologies.