In today’s world of escalating environmental concerns and shifting global economic priorities, export credit agencies have the potential to play a pivotal role in advancing the transition to cleaner energy sources and sustainable development.


In recent years, export credit agencies (ECAs) globally have transformed their approach, becoming more flexible in their strategies and product offerings.

Increasingly, these public agencies are reshaping their business models and moving beyond their historical focus on large corporates to offer more proactive support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the broader supply chain that supports capital-intensive projects.

“Since the pandemic, there has been a rapid proliferation of new ECA schemes, which provide the market with increased flexibility and allow a greater breadth of application of the product,” says Richard Hodder, Citi’s global head of export agency finance.

At the same time, some agencies are also positioning themselves as enablers of the transition to cleaner energy alternatives as they redirect their support away from traditional oil and gas industries to foster innovation and growth in renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable infrastructure.

“In terms of the energy transition, the sheer volume of financing that will be required to drive it, as well as the large size of individual projects, will necessitate a diversity of funding sources – and ECA support will be key,” says Hodder. “Looking at the enquiries across our network, we expect ECA demand to grow and remain at sustained high levels over the next decade.”

A cleaner energy future

Certain ECAs have announced that they are ending support for sectors that do not meet their sustainability goals or parameters.

In 2021, participants of the OECD Arrangement on Officially Supported Export Credits agreed to end support for unabated coal-fired power plants,1 projects in which no active steps are taken to reduce CO2 emissions. More recently, in July this year, OECD participants reached a consensus on a reform package designed to boost incentives for supporting a wider range of green transactions, including raising the maximum repayment term from 18 to 22 years for climate-friendly projects.2

ECAs have also increased their support for renewable energy and the clean energy transition. This shift is characterised by an uptick in innovative solutions and partnerships.

For example, in the past few years, the Netherlands ECA Atradius DSB expanded its green project finance content policy, relaxed underwriting criteria for small green transactions and broadened its export definition for green transactions.3

Meanwhile, Italy’s Sace introduced a Green Guarantee that supports companies transitioning to a clean and circular economy or sustainable and intelligent mobility. Projects must aim, for example, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or regenerate urban areas.4

Earlier this year, Citi signed a €500mn facility with Spanish energy firm Iberdrola, guaranteed by Eksfin, Norway’s export credit agency. This corporate-level funding will be used to finance the supply of equipment from a number of Norwegian exporters destined to be used in one of the company’s wind farm projects off the coast of the UK.

“What this facility illustrates is that while there are major projects in the renewables, clean hydrogen and battery gigafactories sectors, where the ECAs can play a very important direct role, there are also a growing number of opportunities for the agencies to support the financing of the supply chains linked to these developments,” says Hodder.

He points to the electric vehicle sector as another example, noting that while funding is required for the battery plants being built, it is also needed for all the ancillary facilities that supply components to those projects.

Looking ahead, Hodder envisions Citi’s role encompassing support for both substantial capital-intensive ventures and investment in the capacity of the supply chain to sustain these developments.

“It’s a network of projects – rather than individual transactions – that is shaping the industry’s growth,” he says.

A shift towards greater flexibility

Some ECAs’ proactive support for clean energy structured projects, as opposed to traditional energy and fossil fuel transactions, is being replicated by other agencies in the industry.

“We’re in the midst of a period of change in the industry as the product becomes progressively relevant and flexible,” says Hodder. “The fact that the OECD Arrangement rules have finally been updated and amended after all these years is a huge achievement for the market. At the same time, there’s been a surge in the breadth of product offerings and the type of business we are doing.”

The situation has empowered banks to be more creative and dynamic in their approach to the agencies. “ECAs are certainly a lot more adaptable than they were even five years ago in collaborating with us to ensure that solutions work for the underlying borrower, including providing flexible terms to enable large volumes along the supply chain and streamlining documentation requirements,” says Hodder.

He notes that the ECAs of the UK and Korea have emerged as pioneers in the movement towards greater flexibility.

In 2021, UKEF introduced a number of changes to its range of products, including enhancing the flexibility and accessibility of its EDG, which it first launched in 2019.5 It expanded the guarantee’s eligibility criteria to encompass investors who are not currently exporting, even extending this opportunity to foreign firms, if they can demonstrate that the support will lead to exports. UKEF also made the EDG available on extended payment terms to UK exporters within the green economy sector.

The changes are designed to promote the development of the export market, moving beyond merely financing to actively fostering its growth, says Hodder.

“We’ve now seen various versions of this type of product, inspired by the UKEF’s EDG, being put in place with unique variations across the globe as agencies realise the benefits of this pandemic-driven initiative,” he adds.

The Korean ECAs Korea Trade Insurance Corporation (K-sure) and the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Kexim) have also demonstrated considerable adaptability in backing their domestic exporters. Both agencies are increasingly engaged in providing untied support for projects of broader national interest, and are playing a prominent role in assisting local investors involved in overseas projects where they hold an ownership stake.

In April this year, the Korean government announced a public-private strategy to advance the country’s battery producers through a range of support measures, chief amongst which was a commitment by K-sure and Kexim to provide W7tn (US$5.3bn)-worth of loans and guarantees to back battery and battery material firms’ investments in North America over the next five years.

Tracking business flows

Export finance banks are aiming to align with the needs of their clients and support sustainability trends across the globe.

“The initiatives by the UK and Korean agencies have been met with enthusiasm by the banking community. What’s more, the uptake of these products is growing notably amongst midsize corporates, which is encouraging as Citi is committed to supporting our commercial banking clients with our full suite of trade solutions,” says Hodder.

Regarding the energy transition, there is also a growing recognition amongst banks of the importance of taking a proactive role in advancing their own sustainability goals. For Citi’s export agency team, that entails developing its industry expertise to understand the dynamics of new sectors within each of the markets it covers.

“While ECA teams have traditionally been organised geographically, it is now essential to overlay that structure with expertise in emerging areas like green hydrogen and batteries,” says Hodder. “This dual approach of maintaining a geographic focus while also delving into industry-specific knowledge is critical to succeeding in today’s landscape.”

“We’ve also recognised that we cannot just wait for deals to happen. Instead, we’re diving deep into sectors to understand the challenges and the investment needs, and actively pursuing opportunities within the supply chain,” he adds.


1 OECD, Agreement reached at OECD to end export credit support for unabated coal-fired power plants, 2021

2 OECD, Agreement to expand export credit support for climate-friendly and green projects, 2023

3 Atradius, Green instruments, 2023

4 SACE, The three Green New Deal goals, 2023

5 UKEF, UKEF overhauls guarantees to kickstart major exports, 2021