We sat down with Angeles Toledo, Fund Manager of Triodos Groenfonds, and talked about the fund’s performance during 2018 and her outlook for the coming year.
Pioneers for the energy transition
Triodos Groenfonds invests in high positive impact projects with adequate risk adjusted returns. The fund provides mainly senior project finance loans to renewable energy projects globally, and to organic agriculture and sustainable real estate in the Netherlands.
“We’re one of the most active, experienced and renowned renewable energy investors in the Netherlands, and have the strong ambition to continue paving the way for the energy transition and contributing to the SDGs from the United Nations”, says Toledo. “We are pioneers for the energy transition, have true knowledge of the sector and have been there since the beginning with a clear vision. For example, many years ago, Triodos Groenfonds financed the very first modern wind turbine in the Netherlands! Many raised their eyebrows back then but look how the world looks today!”
“We want to contribute to achieving the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement, and the climate change targets set by the Dutch government. In addition, we support technology and innovation because it will help accelerate the electrification of the world and the decoupling of gas and fossil sources.”
But investing in the energy transition wasn’t an easy mission during 2018. “There were a few challenges during the year”, says Toledo. “The competition in the Netherlands for relevant larger energy projects became tougher with new entrants who are rushing to become “green” …but who knows if they are going to stay there for the long term or once interest rates start rising. Or too much focus on larger projects leaving the medium to small sized ones without access to capital. We remain very disciplined and diligent in our work and carefully select projects.
Despite these challenges, we proudly financed 316 projects in 2018 and created a strong pipeline for the coming years. This demonstrates our ability to get things done and achieve good returns for our investors. Our clients choose for Triodos because we add value to them.”
Toledo did however manage to close several new and large transactions during the year. One of those investments includes the refinancing of Windpark Hartel II, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, which consists of eight wind turbines that supply clean electricity to around 18,000 households. The EUR 24.3 million investment funded for the first time, together with the wind turbines, the largest battery in the Netherlands with the size of six sea containers to store energy produced by the wind turbines.
“It was an extremely interesting project developed by Greenchoice” says Toledo. “It is the first battery of its kind and the first battery for Triodos. Batteries can be challenging to finance because of their unpredictable cashflows. We, together with Triodos Bank, collaborated intensively to put the right structure in place. In addition, we enjoy the strong relationship and the trust of Greenchoice. It was a very creative approach that leveraged on the relationship with Triodos Bank and lowered the risks. We look forward to replicate this model for more transactions in the future.”
During the year the fund also invested in several projects in emerging markets, such as modernising an ex-Soviet Union hydro plant. It also joined a consortium with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and FMO to provide a USD 31.6 million syndicated loan to build the largest solar plant in Mongolia.
“Emerging markets are a must because we’re bringing electricity and opportunities and progress to rural areas, and the financial returns are attractive. On a risk adjusted basis they are very well compensated, and the impact is very clear.” “Moreover, in a segment traditionally served by DFIs, Triodos is one of the very few private debt providers. Our role is to make more capital available to such projects to bring more progress to the world”
Previously, only Dutch projects received green certification, but Triodos worked with the government to successfully achieve the certification of several renewable energy projects in emerging countries.
Finally, to create more impact and enhance innovation, Triodos Groenfonds can invest now for a small allocation in impact funds.
Toledo says that the year ahead will focus on positioning the fund to better align with the Triodos vision on energy. She is also adjusting the fund’s structure to accommodate the market’s rapid growth and developments, and to increase opportunities to finance innovation.
“We’re seeing a move towards the democratisation of energy, where energy will be independently produced locally as opposed to being produced centrally by large scale utilities. People are choosing to install solar panels on their roofs, and companies on buildings, and they are using the energy they generate themselves. It’s a very important shift and one that we want to support”, she says.
“We have a strong pipeline in renewable energy projects in the Netherlands, especially in solar, and we expect to close more deals in emerging markets in the utility sector as well as commercial and industrial segments and in off-grid projects”.
With the relative share of food and agricultural projects declining due to the reduced number of newly granted green certificates, the fund will also look to increase its role in sustainable real estate in the Netherlands.
“We will remain very active yet careful and diligent in selecting good investments. We continue adding value to our clients with our experience and our Triodos philosophy. We have the clear ambition to contribute to overcome the adverse effects of climate change by accelerating the energy transition. We hope to reach the one-billion-euro size, which will position us strongly to continue creating more impact!”
For more information about the fund’s financial performance, please download the annual report. The new impact report presents a more detailed overview of the fund’s impact in energy and climate.
About the fund
Based on a Dutch tax scheme, the fund invests at least 70% of assets under management in projects that are certified as green by the Dutch government. The other 30% is either retained as liquid assets (such as green bonds) or invested in sustainable and innovative projects that are not eligible for certification but that are in line with the fund's objectives. At the end of 2018, the fund’s assets under management amounted to EUR 884 million, 77% of which was invested in green certified projects. The fund’s annual return was 0.3%. This return does not include the additional fiscal benefit investors may be eligible for.