The global green bond market is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, trebling last year after issuing nearly $50 billion. It is tipped to more than double again, with estimates of over $100 billion in green bonds to be issued in 2015 alone.
While the global market was established over a decade ago, the first Australian dollar-denominated green bond on the Australian market was issued only last year.
The first World Bank Kangaroo Green Bond offer attracted $300 million from investors. This was followed by National Australia Bank's $300 million Climate Bond issued in late 2014 and the $600 million Kangaroo Green Bond issued by German development bank, KfW, in 2015.
To date, the biggest issuance by an Australian-based issuer has been the recent ANZ Green Bond which closed over-subscribed at $600 million. This is one of the largest green bond issuances of any commercial bank in the world for 2015.
While the Australian market has lagged behind the global green bond market, it won't for long. We see huge potential for growth in this market over the coming decade – if it continues to grow at the current trend, the market will easily surpass $3 billion in total by the end of next year.
DIVERSITY ON THE UP
As the appetite for green bonds increases we can expect to see increased diversity from both issuers and investors.
To date, the only institutions to issue green bonds targeted at the Australian market have been domestic commercial banks (50 per cent) and international development banks (50 per cent).
However, in time, the diversity of issuers will increase. State and local governments are already showing interest in green bonds and it won't be long before they start issuing them to finance low-carbon projects.
Councils have an investment function and are rightly concerned about the impact of climate change on their ratepayers. Consequently, they will want to ensure their investments are consistent with the concerns of their ratepayers.
In this context it is important to recognise Australian dollar-denominated green bonds issued by Australian banks have been compliant with the Climate Bond Initiative Standard.
Under that standard, bonds must be independently certified to verify the proceeds will be used in projects that meet certain criteria, developed by scientists and industry experts. This is an important way in which issuers can build investor confidence in green bonds.
From an investor point of view, we have seen interest in the Australian green bond market from both domestic and international investors.
Analysis by the CEFC suggests Australian-based investors make up over two-thirds of the investor base in the Australian market, with the balance from investors in Asia-Pacific/US (18 per cent) and Europe (10 per cent).
Importantly, Australia's green bond market has already attracted interest from investors from across the economy, ranging from local councils to insurance companies.
Institutional investors are backing green bonds because they target areas viewed as increasingly important to their clients, without increasing their credit risk or lowering their returns profile.
Green bonds also allow investors to balance their risk across a large number of projects and maintain greater liquidity than possible through direct infrastructure investments.
By far the largest investor class has been asset managers, who make up over half of all investors to date. Superannuation funds are a main driver of this investment, as the majority of super funds hold green bonds through asset managers, rather than through direct investments.
Members are increasingly pushing their super funds to adopt mandates which support clean investment, a clear indication Australia's $2 trillion superannuation fund pool, the fourth largest in the world, will provide a significant source of demand for Australia's emerging green bond market.
The CEFC operates like a traditional financier, working collaboratively with co-financiers and project proponents to seek ways to secure financing solutions for the clean energy sector.
A key part of our role is to leverage funding for the deployment of clean energy technologies. Green bonds are central to this – in fact, we see the growing Australian green bond market as a fundamental driver of new investment in the renewable sector over the next five years.
A number of renewable energy developers of large-scale wind and solar projects have been turning to the green bond market as an alternative to the traditional equity and debt markets. Over 70 per cent of Australian green bonds will be used for renewable energy projects, ranging from solar and wind, to bioenergy, and potentially even geothermal.
Already, 18 potential wind and solar projects across Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, NSW and the ACT will benefit from finance raised in the Australian green bond market to date.
With the 33,000 GWh Renewable Energy Target now legislated, around $10 billion to $15 billion of investment in renewable energy will be needed over the next five years.
The growing Australian green bond market is the key to unlocking new sources of capital and expanding the investor base for this sector, which will be critical to providing the economy with the required levels of renewable energy to underpin Australia's continued economic growth.
Oliver Yates is CEO of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is a statutory authority established under the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act 2012. The CEFC invests for a positive financial return. Its more than 40 direct investments and 25 projects co-financed under aggregation programs expect to achieve a positive net benefit for the taxpayer. When operational, these projects will help to improve energy productivity for businesses across Australia, develop local industries and generate new employment opportunities. Since its inception, the CEFC has committed over $1 billion in finance to investments in clean energy projects valued at over $3 billion.