Oliver Yates

19 December 2012 — UPDATED – The $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation headed by former Macquarie  banker Oliver Yates has made its first move by absorbing Low Carbon Australia Ltd.

The “in principle”agreement was announced on Wednesday afternoon and while a media statement said there would be a “merger of LCAL’s energy efficiency programs, staff, systems and platforms” the staffing issue is up for grabs. That includes the role of current LCAL chief executive officer Meg McDonald.

A spokeswoman for CEFC who spoke to The Fifth Estate while inspecting potential new premises for the corporation in Sydney, said there had been no decisions made on staffing.

“It’s very early days, What we do have is a draft of a schedule for staff – not positions –  which is changing daily,” the spokeswoman said.

LCAL had close to 30 staff but it was based in Brisbane.

Currently the CEFC had a “staff of one” plus three part time contractors.

A “C-suite” – chief operating officer and other senior executives would be first to be appointed.  The aim was to have the agency launched by 1 July, “at the latest”.

“This will be a company with a strong financial and investment side to it and it needs to operate commercially but it also needs to be accountable to the government, so it needs a strong reporting function as you’d expect of any  government agency.”

The agency was currently being run out of Treasury, which was “doing everything it can” to hand over the operations for the agency as smoothly as possible, the spokeswoman said.

The merger with LCAL made sense, she said. “We already have an agency that’s already spent taxpayer money on a website and data base so it makes sense to have a seamless transition to become one team and scale up, so we can move much quicker.”

Asked about the premises under consideration the CEFC spokeswoman said these were “possibly” in a six star building. But she would neither confirm or deny they might be the remaining space at One Bligh Street, which would soon house the Prime Minister’s Department, and were currently being fitted out for a move in the New Year.

CEFC chair Jillian Broadbent LCAL had developed innovative models for financing energy efficiency and the CEFC was keen to build on the experience, expertise and market goodwill created by that pioneering work.

Since its inception in 2010, LCAL has been working within the market place developing finance and investment models to boost private sector investment in energy efficiency. It has contracted, or has under offer, more than $84 million of its funds, and together with private sector co-financing, has made available over $200 million to cleaner energy in Australia.

LCAL chairman Martijn Wilder said integrating the LCAL program, operation and staff expertise with the CEFC would enable continued growth of its activities.

“It means the LCAL team, which has done an outstanding job building a successful clean energy finance organisation, will continue to work with existing clients and those wishing to develop new CEFC financing opportunities,” he said.

The $10 billion, commercially orientated CEFC will build on and scale-up successful LCAL models while existing LCAL contracts and investment programs will remain in place.

This will facilitate the building of a pipeline of new investments by the CEFC from 1 July 2013 with all aspects of the merger completed by 30 June 2013.

Mr Yates took was appointed CEO of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation in November.

He has more than 20 years’ experience with the Macquarie Group where he built international businesses in Australia, Europe and the United States.

As executive director of Macquarie Capital, global head Utilities and Climate Change, Mr Yates led the part acquisition of Climate Friendly, now Australia’s’ highest rated and largest voluntary carbon action company, the establishment of ENVEX, Australia’s first fully automated carbon products platform to trade on the FEX exchange and the BioCarbon Group, a venture set to taking a leading role in the REDD sector.