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Scotland: Meet the expert

Meet our renewable energy expert, Jim Leamon

Jim Leamon is a Sales Director in our Glasgow team responsible for the specialist lending arm of the business. He specialises in providing finance solutions for renewable energy and energy efficiency assets but also supports his team in providing corporate and fairground finance. Here he provides insight into his career, how asset finance works and the future of renewable energy.  

Tell us about your work history… 

I have worked in the agriculture industry my whole career and in the agricultural finance sector since 2001. In 2003 I was part of the management team which launched the agri-broker division for a leading financial services company. 

Originally, I joined Close Brothers Asset Finance in 2009 to launch a specialist agricultural offering for the business alongside Colin Swanston. It was at this stage that Close Brothers first started to look at financing farm-based small-scale renewables. 

I then worked for several years as a broker, before re-joining Close Brothers in early 2018 in the now-established renewables team. 

What type of asset finance do you offer to your customers? 

On the renewables front, whilst we do offer standard Hire Purchase and Leasing facilities for customers installing new renewable energy equipment, the reduction in government support tariffs means that current opportunities tend to be refinance related. Refinance allows businesses to restructure existing debt or raise additional working capital for other business purposes such as purchasing new equipment, research and development opportunities or business acquisitions. 

The ideal for businesses is a combination of finance and refinance which delivers the funding required whilst minimising any impact on future cash flow. The additional benefit and indeed attraction of this for renewable energy assets is that they are long-life so in many cases can support funding terms of up to 10 years amortised. This helps debt serviceability at a time when cash flow is king. 

What types of assets do you finance?

In addition to the traditional renewable energy assets - i.e. wind turbines, solar panels, hydro generators and biomass boilers – another key and growing area  is funding energy efficiency solutions for SMEs looking to better manage and future-proof an element of their production costs. 
The best examples of these assets are: 

  • Combined heat and power engines, which enable businesses to produce their own heat and power at reduced  costs
  • LED lighting
  • Ground source heat pumps, which still attract a high level of Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) support
  • Electric vehicles and charging points

What are the main benefits for businesses who invest in renewable energy technologies? 

Historically, there have been two potential key benefits:

  • Businesses can generate an additional source of revenue through government  tariffs 
  • Businesses can reduce their operating costs 

I would now also say that having renewable energy technology where appropriate for the business will become increasingly important as it demonstrates positive corporate social responsibility. 

What does the future hold for the renewables team? 

Earlier in 2019, the government committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2050 to tackle climate change. It’s likely that new green initiatives will emerge to support this goal and, as such, it is essential that our finance offerings remain agile.