Brighte broadens its green horizons

After bursting onto the solar-finance scene just a few years ago, Brighte is expanding into other areas of lending – all with a green focus. George Whittle, Brighte’s Sydney-based head of funding, explains how the company is delivering on its ambition to make every home sustainable.

In July, Brighte announced its partnership with the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government to roll out the first phase of a A$150 million (US$111.2 million) sustainable household scheme. This offers zero interest loans for a range of energy efficient upgrades. How does this align with Brighte’s strategy?

Brighte is not just about solar. The mission of our business is to make every home sustainable. When the ACT government’s sustainable-household programme was presented as an option we saw it aligning perfectly with this mission. The ACT scheme is focused on bringing households forward in their energy consumption toward a more sustainable future – and this is exactly where Brighte sits.

This is the first time a government has put a programme like this out to a competitive-tender process, and we were keen to participate. The scheme involves products we already deliver to our customers as well as new ones. Especially in times like COVID-19, schemes like this will help our vendors and the local economy grow.

Brighte is also moving into the electric-vehicle (EV) space by offering loans for vehicles and chargers in the ACT, with plans to roll out nationally. Why is Brighte launching this offering in the ACT and what are the firm’s ambitions in this space?

We are starting with the ACT programme and will use this period to learn more about how to exceed customer needs, before rolling out nationally next year.

Launching the programme in the ACT presents an opportunity for us to deliver something that is on our roadmap. The ambition here is exactly the same as it is for all our other cleanenergy products: we want to make them affordable and accessible for Australian households. The key barrier for accessing EVs is finance, exactly as it is with solar and batteries.

Solar penetration is really high in Australia, and certainly when compared with EVs. Indeed, the number of EVs sold each year is still only a few thousand. There is a huge opportunity for our business, especially comparing the local market with some European countries that have similar solar penetration. EV take-up will happen. It will take time to get up and running, but families will purchase these vehicles and get benefits as a result – if we can remove the affordability barrier.

In December last year, Brighte announced it was launching a retail-energy product – a “new energy gentailer model” where customers own energy assets and repay the financing cost to Brighte over time. How is this progressing?

We secured the retail-energy licence required a few months ago and we are very excited about this side of the business, as it is pretty unique in the Australian market. No other finance providers are also energy companies with a strong technology platform like ours. We are currently working on our energy offering and will have more to say about it when we launch the product next year.

Classic energy retailing has a real misalignment of focus between the electricity generators’ interests and the needs of the grid versus what is best for the customer. Specifically, a customer wanting to use energy in a sustainable and smart way does not align perfectly with what electricity generators and the grid need.

Brighte priced its debut term securitisation deal – Australia’s first wholly green-certified asset-backed securities transaction – in October last year. How are originations tracking and will Brighte return to the public market soon?

Around 85-90 per cent of Brighte’s originations are for solar and solar-related product financing. Originations have been tracking well, all things considered and given the COVID-19 environment.

Regarding the public market, last year’s deal was an exciting milestone for the business and for the market as a whole. We plan to be a regular issuer in Australian dollars and there may be a transaction later this year, depending on market conditions.