Wells Fargo Green Financing Surges to $6.2 Billion

Wells Fargo Green Financing Surges to $6.2 Billion

Wells Fargo's environmental financing has grown to $6.2 billion in loans and investments for green building projects, solar and wind power installments, clean technology and firms that develop it, the company said in its latest report on green financing.

The sum represents a more than sixfold increase since the start of Wells Fargo's green financing initiative, a component of the company's 10-point environmental commitment (pdf) launched in 2005. Also, a growing percentage of the funding now goes to cleantech projects and enterprises.

The report (pdf) released Thursday covers activities through 2009 and provides cumulative totals of environmental loans and investments since the start of the program.

Green financing by Wells Fargo has grown steadily despite the Great Recession. In December 2008, the company reported that its environmental loans and investments exceeded $3 billion, surpassing its goal of $1 billion. The firm closed that year with a cumulative total of more than $5 billion in loans and investments in green projects.

The program has also diversified over the years and expanded from financing focused largely on green building projects to embrace a growing number of:

  • Utility-scale wind installations.
  • Commercial-scale solar photovoltaic projects with firms such as SunPower, BP and SunEdison, many of which involve purchase power agreements with a range of public and business entities including Kohl's, Walgreens and Staples. 
  • Services and support for green and cleantech firms.

Green building projects accounted for $3.250 billion or about 52 percent of Wells Fargo's environmental financing; renewable energy projects, $1.850 billion or almost 30 percent; and green firms and business ventures, $1.1 billion or 18 percent by the close of 2009.

In contrast, green building accounted for $2 billion or roughly 62 percent of the more than $3 billion in environmental investments and loans the company summarized in its December 2008 report; renewable energy, more than $700 million or about 22 percent; and green business, $500 million or about 15 percent.

The change can be attributed in part to a green building market that's focusing increasingly on retrofits rather than new construction. More importantly, the shift illustrates the growing alignment of green business and clean technology, as detailed in GreenBiz.com's latest State of Green Business report.

Wells Fargo is among the firms positioning itself to capitalize on the trend. Its strategy includes the launch last year of three new banking groups:

  • The National Cleantech Commercial Banking Group, which focuses on banking services and products for firms that make, market or develop cleantech products and services.
  • The Technology Investment Banking Group, which serves firms in the renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage and smart-grid industries among others in the cleantech sector.
  • The Sustainable Public Infrastructure Group, which works with municipalities to provide financing solutions for green retrofits and other public works sustainability projects.

The company's other green financing developments during 2009 included:

  • Investing in more than 75 commercial-scale solar PV projects. In all, Wells Fargo has invested in more than 185 commercial-scale solar PV projects over the years and in a utility-scale concentrating solar plant.
  • Investing in three utility-scale wind projects. Overall, the firm has invested in 27 utility-scale wind power installations.
  • A $26-million loan to the Wolf Point Hotel Company for its green retrofit of the 521-room Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza, which attained a LEED-Gold certification as a result of the renovation and became the first LEED-certified hotel in the city. (GreenBiz.com held a State of Green Business forum in the hotel in February.)

In-house, Wells Fargo's green building projects in 2009 included installing solar arrays on 10 branches -- the firm calls them retail banking stores -- in Colorado.

In other efforts to fulfill its companywide sustainability commitment, Wells Fargo launched a blog to connect with its customers and the public on the company's environmental efforts. The Environmental Forum blog debuted last week with an inaugural post from Vice President Mary Wenzel, the company's director of environmental affairs, and a post about the environmental finance report.

Images and diagrams courtesy of Wells Fargo & Company