Westpac mortgage customers offered $10,000 interest-free solar home loan top-ups

Westpac says it will lend up to $10,000 interest-free for five years to its home loan customers to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

The bank's chief executive David McLean said its new "Warm Up" loans could be used by Westpac home loan customers to install heat pumps, solar panels, ventilation, double glazing or insulation.

This story was originally published on stuff.co.nz

The bank is competing with rivals to brand itself as the most climate-friendly of banks.

It's Westpac Warm Up loans have upped the ante on ANZ, which offers "Healthy Homes" mortgage top-ups of up to $5000 to its customers wanting to improve the energy efficiency of their homes with no interest to pay for four years.

McLean, who is planning to install solar in his own home, was unsure what the interest-free loans would cost the bank as it was uncertain what proportion of current home loan customers would apply for them.

The loan limit had been set at $10,000 because that was a realistic total considering the costs of installing energy efficiency solutions in homes, he said.

The move was partly inspired by a survey Westpac commissioned which found the vast majority of people felt businesses should be doing more to reduce their climate impact.

In all, 88 per cent of people felt business needed to commit to more carbon reduction.

"That's why we're committed to offering products and services that can cut our customers' costs and their carbon footprint," he said.

"Our new Westpac Warm Up loan offering is one way we can help New Zealanders make their home more energy-efficient, while also improving the quality of our housing stock for future generations."

The announcement came as Westpac became the country's first "carbon zero" certified bank.

Westpac, which began reducing its carbon footprint in 2008, got the certification from New Zealand carbon measurement company Toitū, which has customers all over the world.

Part of getting that certification was paying to offset the bank's carbon emissions through the purchase of carbon credits from the likes of forestry operations.

The bank had also committed to moving to an entirely electric vehicle fleet by 2025, McLean said.

"We think climate change is the biggest environmental issue we face, and is a very real threat to our economy and wellbeing," he said.

"New Zealand needs to accelerate its response to climate change. We know from expert research we previously commissioned that taking action now will reduce the cost and impact of climate change in the future and ensure a better New Zealand for future generations."

He said Westpac had a programme in place to monitor and reduce the carbon footprint of its lending.

Already the bank would not lend to coal extraction businesses, but its programme had to reflect the realities of New Zealand's economy.

It currently banked some natural gass extractors, but McLean said New Zealand remained reliant on gas for generating a significant portion of its electricity.

"We have reduced our lending exposure to fossil fuel mining and production by 61 per cent since 2012, and we are the only bank in New Zealand to transparently publish these figures," he said.

"Any new lending must meet strict lending criteria, including that it is consistent with transitioning to a net zero carbon economy in line with the Paris climate agreement."

The lending programme also focused on prioritising loans to business that were seeking to reduce carbon emissions.

Westpac has provided $1.6 billion in lending to "green tech" businesses providing climate change solutions, and had a target to lend $2b by October.

"We have an important role in the transition to a cleaner economy through our lending," McLean said.

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