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Spark-funded solar project bears fruit for citrus farmer in South Africa

27 June 2024  |  By Adam Fitzwilliam, Spark Director, Camco

Electricity is critical for the successful operation of every business. Without an affordable and reliable power supply, a company’s performance is constrained, leading to reduced output, job losses and even bankruptcy.

But this is precisely the situation being faced by hundreds of thousands of businesses across Africa, where energy infrastructure is often straining under rising demand and insufficient investment in upgrades and maintenance. As a counter measure, companies are relying on expensive and highly polluting diesel generators as either a backup, or even primary, source of power.

Recognising the critical role the local commercial and industrial (C&I) sector plays in economic development and job creation in the continent, Camco launched Spark Energy Services (Spark) in 2021. Spark is an innovative financing platform designed to address the need for reliable, affordable, clean power in Africa and draws on Camco’s extensive experience in climate finance.

Spark catalyses the deployment of captive renewable energy and energy efficiency (together “sustainable energy”) solutions to the C&I sector, driving economic productivity and thus supporting locally led green growth. It does this by providing 100% upfront funding so that C&I customers can access sustainable energy solutions with no upfront fees and realise cost and emissions savings from day one. As such, the platform is aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement in supporting an increase in financial flows towards climate mitigation and resilience.

Spark is proving popular with SMEs and investors alike. In the last year alone, it has completed on 14 projects (up from five this time last year). In November, Camco announced the close of an almost USD 10m initial equity round and are expecting to close a USD 19m debt round imminently.

The agriculture sector is a particular focus area for Spark’s support, with many farmers facing reduced productivity and refrigeration-related post-harvest losses due to inadequate electricity supply. Sustainable energy can play a critical role in meeting the electricity, heating and cooling needs of the agriculture and agri-processing sectors. In so doing, it can advance efforts to improve food security, lower greenhouse gas emissions, increase the adaptive capacity of farmers and agri-enterprises, and reduce the cost and environmental impact of the food sector.

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In the case of South African citrus farmer, Eden Fruit, the country’s loadshedding regime had led to a significant increase in the farm’s use of diesel generators to keep up with production, resulting in an additional ZAR 200,000 per month in diesel costs. This prompted Eden Fruit to commission Spark development partner Renen Energy to install 255 kWp’s worth of rooftop solar panels with 800 kWh battery storage across two of its sites, including its packhouse, which is enabling the facility to run fully off-grid in the event of loadshedding.

In Kenya, Spark is in the late stages of planning a similar system for a flower farm, as well as a cold storage facility catering to regional food companies, with many more agriculture-based projects in the pipeline.

Through providing 100% upfront financing and through innovative applications of modern, sustainable energy technology, Spark is helping to revive Africa’s agriculture sector by relieving producers’ reliance on diesel generators, thus cutting down electricity costs and building their climate resilience.

  • Are you a C&I business looking to take control of your energy future with sustainable energy? Take our eligibility checker here to see if Spark can help.

  • If you are you a funder interested in supporting the scale up of sustainable energy across Africa’s C&I sector, then we want to hear from you. Click here to get in touch.

This article was first appeared in Alliance for Rural Electrification's newsletter on 26 June 2024.

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