South Africa’s best-performing bank right now is going big on renewable energy

Nedbank Group wants to almost double its lending to green energy projects in South Africa over the next two years as it seeks to cement its position as a market leader in funding renewable power projects.

The bank’s lending toward the government’s Renewable Independent Power Producer Program – aimed at boosting privately generated electricity in the nation – may jump to about R50 billion($3 billion) in the “short-to-medium term” from 29 billion rand, said chief executive officer Mike Brown.

“We would certainly have appetite for it to go higher if client demand is more than that,” Brown, 56, said in an interview at Nedbank’s office Friday. “We need masses of new energy.”

Demand for funding renewable power projects is likely to surge after president Cyril Ramaphosa unshackled the private sector in a bid to end an energy crisis that’s been holding back Africa’s most-industrialized economy.

The government scrapped a 100 megawatt limit on private power generation, allowing companies to produce electricity without a license to meet their own needs and sell to the grid.

The state also doubled renewable-energy procurement to 5,200 megawatts under the so-called bid window six tender to help accelerate the country transition from a dependence on coal for more than 80% of its power, toward greener energy sources.

Authorities are rushing to avoid a repeat of recent blackouts – power utility Eskom Holdings cut enough electricity to light up 4 million South African homes – that riled residents.

Nedbank has been a market leader in previous rounds of the auctions, said Brown. About 10% of Nedbank’s R1 trillion balance sheet has been advanced to projects that meet United Nations sustainable development goals, he said.

“We absolutely think that working with advising and financing our clients as they change their energy mix and that of the countries they operate in over the next 10 to 20 years is a massive opportunity for us and one that we absolutely aim to continue to lead in,” Brown said.

Nedbank has risen 24% this year making it South Africa’s best-performing bank share. They rose 0.7% on Friday.

Beyond South Africa, the lender sees opportunities in the liquefied natural gas discovered in Mozambique even though projects in the region have been delayed due to attacks by an Islamic State affiliate in the northern part of the country. The insurgence has resulted in thousands of fatalities and the displacement of people since the violence began in 2017.

“I am sure all the sponsors will be re-evaluating when and how to start up again, in particular, given what’s happening globally,” Brown said. “I think it makes the LNG deposits even more attractive than they previously were, if those security issues can be solved.”


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South Africa’s best-performing bank right now is going big on renewable energy