The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Technology Catalogue is a new vendor-driven, shopping-style web platform for climate-friendly technologies.
The catalog looks to help vendors and building owners find green technologies, and give banks confidence in promoting green financing.
The Technology Catalogue presents a model for closing the “climate finance gap.”
Decarbonizing the economy will be expensive, and many observers remain concerned about the “climate finance gap” — the inadequacy of funds currently being spent on climate change mitigation and adaptation.
In May 2018, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) launched its online Technology Catalogue. If successful, this online marketplace for climate-friendly technologies can help close the finance gap.
EBRD supports climate finance through the Green Economy Financing Facility (GEFF). GEFF is a well-established program that operates through 140 local financial institutions in 26 countries to finance clean technology upgrades. EBRD attributes a reduction of over 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year to GEFF financing.
EBRD launched the Technology Catalogue to support delivery of GEFF funds. Each product listed on the catalog is eligible for loans under GEFF.
Ian Smith, who heads the Intermediated Green Finance and Policy group at EBRD, describes the interface as “a shopping-style platform” on which businesses and homeowners can connect with technology vendors. “One of the issues that's holding back the uptake of these higher-performing technologies is not just being able to afford them,” Smith said. “It's being able to find them.”
Launching the Technology Catalogue
Two characteristics make the Technology Catalogue a promising and potentially scalable climate-finance solution. First, the platform is vendor-driven. Vendors list their own products on the website and have a stake in promoting the tool to financers, customers and technology suppliers. “We're promoting it primarily through the vendors,” Smith explained, “because that's the way that we believe we can influence the market to deliver the most impact.”
Second, the platform is free for vendors, financers and customers in the countries across eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia where it operates. Users can filter their search for products by country, manufacturer and technology. Technologies are grouped into 11 categories ranging from improved insulation to energy-efficient HVAC systems to fuel-efficient transportation.
Technology Catalogue User
Potential User Benefits
Access and advertising in local markets
|Technical information allowing comparison between products|
Easy access to product and financing information
Intended Technology Catalogue benefits by user group. Source: EBRD PowerPoint presentation titled “Technology Catalogue key features.”
The Technology Catalogue provides a unique service in the climate finance world. When EBRD first became interested in launching a portal to increase access to green technologies, they first hoped to use an existing platform. “At the time,” Smith said, “there wasn't anything like this. So, we realized that we would have to do this ourselves.”
According to EBRD, feedback from vendors, customers and financers has been positive. “Using the Technology Catalogue streamlines the investments and cuts on the time and effort spent to prove the eligibility of the products that are being financed through the partner financial institutions,” said Shahir Zaki, principal manager for energy efficiency and climate change at EBRD, who led the information technology design for the tool.
Determining Product Eligibility
Greenwashing presents an important threat to the Technology Catalogue. To filter out technologies with minimal climate benefit, listed products must be eligible for GEFF financing – and therefore must verifiably reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But when EBRD launched the platform, there were no standards in place to rate high quality green technologies and confirm that they reduce carbon emissions compared to other technology options. Determining product eligibility thus became a focus for Smith’s team.
Zaki heads the group tasked with determining product eligibility, and said the group focuses primarily on product quality, energy savings and emissions reductions.
To create a set of product standards, EBRD enlisted help from manufacturers. The process has been largely successful, but there are challenges. Not all technologies are well-suited to the standard, according to Smith. For example, some technologies only create emissions reductions when used properly. EBRD does not list these technologies on the catalog.
Ensuring that the standards are pushing catalog users toward green products will be an ongoing challenge for EBRD. To do this, technologies must be ranked clearly and transparently. A successful standard will allow EBRD to list more products, which the bank says is a key concern for platform users.
“All users are keen to see more products included,” Smith said. Early signs are encouraging. “The EBRD is working together with technical experts and technology suppliers to increase the registration of eligible products and will also be adding more technology categories in the coming months,” he said.
Global Finance, Local Impact
While the Technology Catalogue can support large loans, it was designed to facilitate loans for households and small businesses. To date, most of the loans offered through the platform have been small-scale.
Some banks even offer microfinance. In Tajikistan, for example, Smith has observed the use of microloans for small-scale farmers. After taking out a microloan of a few hundred dollars, one farmer was able to install piping that reduced soil erosion on her property. “The pipe actually allowed her land to be more fertile,” Smith said. “It was a profitable micro-investment, and she managed to double her harvest and pay back the loan.”
Local lending institutions have also benefited from the platform. Banks participating in the GEFF have historically been challenged to determine whether products are eligible for loans. “They didn't know,” Smith said. “They were not very confident to promote it.”
“The financial institutions are not technical experts,” Smith said. “This has helped them. If it's on the catalog, they can finance it. And that's given them a certain amount of confidence in promoting green financing.”
Technology vendors have used the platform to connect with global manufacturers. Manufacturers were historically reluctant to enter some of the markets covered by GEFF due to uncertainty about the reliability of local vendors. New connections facilitated by the catalog have made green technology projects available to customers for the first time.
By connecting customers, venders and financers, the Technology Catalogue can create greenhouse gas emissions reductions. “People are buying things which are below this standard,” said Smith. By helping business and homeowners access green technologies, the catalog can help users reach a higher environmental standard.
Scaling the Technology Catalogue
When the Technology Catalogue launched, EBRD hoped it could deliver $1.3 billion of climate finance in ten countries. The platform, if successful, might be a model for streamlining climate change finance globally.
Before launching the platform, EBRD discussed partnering with other development organizations, but ultimately decided to create and launch the tool alone. Today, EBRD is reconsidering partnerships, and in the future may work with development banks that operate in different regions.
Smith credits this change to recent alignment on the best methods for financing energy efficient and other green technologies. “What we found was that the approaches, even the approach of ‘what is green,’ [were] differing quite a lot in terms of what would be an appropriate standard,” Smith said. “Now, the international development and finance institutions are almost entirely agreed on exactly what the standards are.”
The Technology Catalogue may even stand on its own, as an institution independent of EBRD. “We can see a point in the not-too-distant future where this becomes a more self-sustaining model, which is able to generate sufficient revenue to keep it fresh in the markets,” Smith said.
This transition will not be easy. Marketing presents a challenge – for the platform to be effective, it must have users. But Smith believes that using a vendor and technology manufacturer driven model makes the catalog scalable. “I think that this approach can work almost anywhere,” he said.