Interview by Andreea Moraru,

Regional Head of Greece and Cyprus at EBRD

to Symela Touchtidou

In January 2022, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced an additional €50 million in equity to its joint venture with Dimand. The JV focuses on brownfield redevelopment, deep refurbishment and regeneration projects in Greece.

To date, about 65% of EBRD funding in the Greek real estate sector is in green buildings or urban regeneration projects. Green buildings, the integration of sustainability practices in the real estate and tourism sectors and urban regeneration have a prominent place in the Bank’s strategy for Greece.

Greek Business Filed talked to Andreea Moraru, Regional Head of Greece and Cyprus at EBRD and George Maltezos, principal banker of Property and Tourism at EBRD about the priorities set by EBRD, investment opportunities, standards and ratings required to secure EBRD financing.

Our partnership with Dimand began in 2017 in order to address exactly that gap we saw in the market, namely the lack of a new, modern user-oriented building stock and which incorporates high-energy efficiency features or is energy certified,” A. Moraru explained. “Especially for urban regeneration projects, while these are based on some basic principles, a visionary approach is needed on how private investment can anchor the change of entire areas of a city and thus creating socio-economic activity centered around the building.

Dimand was one of the few active developers at the time, who directed their strategy towards the development or deep retrofit of green buildings but also towards the benefits of urban regeneration, that entails the revitalization of urban areas. Our contribution came to strengthen Dimand’s financial capacity to proceed with a larger number of developments matching its high operational capacity.

The Moxy Hotel

The expansion of our cooperation comes as a continuation of a proven and successful model, but also as a consequence of the continuing need of the Greek market for such buildings and type of investments, as the demand for them, both from investors, users, and from society, remains high. There is already a series of projects in which we participate through our joint venture with Dimand and which are in various stages of construction, such as the Moxy Marriott Hotel in Omonia Square, the Importex office building on Syggrou Avenue and the landmark Piraeus Tower. The extension of the funding limit, respectively, is based on a wide pipeline of projects, which is already at an advanced stage of preparation.”

Why is important for EBRD to invest in green buildings?

The real estate sector, including construction, is responsible for around 38% of energy consumption and 43% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EBRD regions. At the same time, less than 0.3% of the existing building stock in the region undergoes a deep retrofit every year while the construction to nearly zero energy standards is very low.

Typically, EU Member States have been asked to develop appropriate policies to facilitate the transition to nearly-zero energy buildings which are a key pillar of the EU Taxonomy as a framework for facilitating sustainable investment in the EU.

This will in turn require the deployment of a wide variety of business models and tools, and since the EBRD has a broad range of capabilities and experience in this field, it can play a leading role in the low carbon market transformation of its countries of operations. In addition, the adoption of ambitious climate actions for promoting low‐carbon constructions and deep energy efficiency retrofit will require a significant increase in the supply of new technologies and therefore there is a role for the EBRD in supporting the technological transition across the whole real estate value chain.

The potential of reducing carbon emissions in the building sector, either through renovations of existing buildings or through new constructions, is therefore very high, requiring a strong partnership between the public and the private sector both in terms of policy and investment.

Importex, a pair of eight storey buildings with views towards the Acropolis, is expected to be completed in 2022.

How do you secure that an investment in a “green” building is a viable one?

The assessment of the financial viability of each investment is multilayered. As in any financial institution, every project considered for investment by the Bank undergoes a comprehensive and careful assessment of financial information, business processes and an overall assessment of creditworthiness or equity risk return. During the due diligence process, the feasibility studies and financial business plans are examined and analyzed, and all key assumptions undergo a process of analysis and verification by the Bank. From an economic point of view, for the analysis of business plans relating to green buildings we apply a holistic approach and not solely assessing the decision to incorporate elements of sustainability or the choice of certification.

However, it is in the nature of the EBRD to examine projects in terms of their developmental perspective, which can be determined in a number of ways. For green buildings, we always look at their environmental footprint and the energy efficiency elements they incorporate, but we often seek a broader approach by promoting sustainability reporting, integrating sustainability into corporate governance practices, training in sustainable practices and skills etc.

EBRD has announced that by 2025 the majority of its business will be green. How close is it to achieving this goal?

Τhe EBRD is on the right track to becoming a majority green bank by 2025, as most of its business is already green. For example, in 2021, green financing hit a record €5.4 billion, or 51% of our total business volume across all the economies we invest in. The 2021 green results represent a significant increase on the 29% share of total financing in 2020. This was also the case in Greece, where more than half of our investments last year were in green projects, a 20% increase on 2020. We invested in green and sustainable projects of GEK Terna, Mytilineos and PPC, among other companies. Green transition is among our top priorities, and it’s also one of the priorities under EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) and our new facility with the Greek authorities, which is expected to total up to €1 billion. Finally, from the end of 2022, we also aim to have all our activity aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

 


This article is published in the March/ April issue of Greek Business File,  part of the cover story on the top construction industry trend of building green. The cover story presents the history of green buildings in Greece, the pioneers and market leaders. It also looks into the huge gap between the capital and the rest of the country. The March/ April issue of Greek Business File is available here.