How to close the finance gap for commercial and industrial solar in Sub-Saharan Africa
How to close the finance gap for C&I solar in Sub-Saharan Africa (Picture courtesy of Ariya Leasing)

Quick summary

 How to close the finance gap for Commercial and Industrial solar market? Here are the main points developed in the article:

  • Why is it hard to access finance for C&I market?
  1. Solar projects require high transaction costs
  2. Bank loans are not available
  • How can more C&I solar projects be financed?
  1. Sustainable financing mechanisms
  2. Crowdinvesting
  3. The ecoligo fintech solution

 

ARTICLE

Sub-Saharan Africa is a great place for commercial solar projects. High solar irradiation coupled with comparatively high costs of grid electricity makes commercial and industrial solar projects financially viable. There is just one problem: access to financing.

 

Why is it hard to access finance?

 

Firstly, projects are characterised by high transaction costs. These typically come from activities such as technical feasibility studies, financial assessments, securing of rights, permitting, licensing, due diligence, legal structuring of projects, risk appraisals and other development expenses. As they are usually undertaken by external companies, this results in fixed costs that are independent of the project size. Therefore, as the fixed costs can be justified more easily for larger projects than smaller ones, it makes financial sense for commercial investors to invest in these larger projects.

 

Secondly, suitable bank loans are not typically available in sub-Saharan African countries. This is because local banks only provide short loan durations of less than three years with interest rates that sometimes reach 20% per year or more, which is not viable for the financing of solar systems.

 

For these reasons, the finance gap mostly affects projects with a financing volume of between 50,000€ and 2.5 million €. This means solar systems with a capacity of between 30 kWp and 2 MWp, which are the ideal size to provide commercial and industrial (C&I) customers with solar as their power demand is typically in the same range. These companies, although financially stable, typically do not invest outside of their core business.

 

In Kenya, the C&I sector consumes 72% of the country’s utility-supplied electricity. If the finance gap can be closed, solar projects represent an opportunity to both support the economy and reduce strain on the national grid, freeing up capacity for households.

Ground-mount solar plant in construction
Figure 1 – Ground-mount solar plant in construction (Picture courtesy of Ariya Leasing)

How can more C&I solar projects be financed?

 

Although projects in the C&I field exist, there are not many solar projects realised yet in sub-Saharan Africa. Pilot projects are often at least co-financed by grants, which is not scalable and means that follow-up projects rarely materialise. While pilots are helpful in testing technical feasibility where necessary and increasing knowledge of solar energy solutions in the market, sustainable financing mechanisms need to be in place to scale up the renewable energy markets in Africa.

 

A new trend signals hope: a rise in alternative financing methods – such as crowdinvesting – is mobilising private finance for projects of this size. This opens access to the finance that is necessary for the realisation of these projects. The trend is growing in Europe and has already been used to finance numerous renewable energy projects worldwide.

 

What is crowdinvesting?

 

Crowdinvesting is when many investors finance a project, each making a small financial contribution in proportion to the total capital required. At most crowdinvesting platforms, investment volumes already start at 500€ or even below but total investment sums per project still reach several hundred thousand or even millions of €.

 

Crowdinvesting is very much part the Financial Technology (FinTech) movement that aims to compete with traditional funding methods in the delivery of financial services. The low investment entry-point allows a greater participation of the general public and enables projects to unlock the capital they need.

Operation ground-mount solar plant
Figure 2 – Operation ground-mount solar plant (Picture courtesy of ecoligo)

How can ecoligo help?

 

An effective use case is ecoligo’s: a solar utility that utilizes, crowd-investing to finance solar systems for C&I customers in sub-Saharan Africa. The business model is free from the need for subsidies, which is a crucial factor in scalable energy development.

In Kenya, ecoligo currently works with Ariya Leasing who develop, own and operate clean energy power plants. Through the crowdinvesting platform that ecoligo has initiated and in partnership with Ariya Leasing, multiple projects with a total capacity of 317 kWp have been financed so far.

In Ghana, ecoligo is developing its own projects and works with international and local engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies to develop a technical solution that fits a customer’s needs and then to build and maintain the system after it has been financed. This solves another problem: clients do not want to be involved with the technical side of the solar systems. ecoligo gives them the option to simply receive the electricity, while ecoligo deals with the EPC and O&M partner and manages the system.

The finance gap in sub-Saharan Africa is not only preventing C&I businesses from accessing low-cost energy and hindering their growth as a consequence, but it also impacts EPCs, whose customers want to have solar energy but can’t find finance. New financing methods like crowdinvesting present a clear path to closing the finance gap, enabling EPCs across the region to implement many more solar projects and grow their business, too.

 

ecoligo is a solar utility that provides low-cost solar energy to businesses in sub-Saharan Africa. By financing the solar systems through a crowdinvesting platform, ecoligo closes the finance gap that prevents these projects from being realised. If you are interested in working with ecoligo in any capacity, get in touch. Find out more about the company at ecoligo.com.

 

Sources

  1. Ecoligo : https://www.ecoligo.com/blog/2017/07/what-is-crowdinvesting/?utm_source=blog_en&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=bl_finance_gap_en
  2. KPLC : http://www.kplc.co.ke/AR2016/KPLC%202016%20Annual%20Report%20Upload.pdf
  3. Science Direct : http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S136403211630778X#bib1

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