APAC: Facebook and Microsoft have joined with investment firm Allotrope Partners to launch a “first-of-its-kind” finance facility to catalyze investments in renewable energy microgrids in underserved communities around the globe.
The Microgrid Investment Accelerator (MIA) will mobilize roughly $50 million between 2018 and 2020 to expand energy access in parts of India, Indonesia and East Africa. The facility was launched yesterday at the U.N. Sustainable Energy For All Forum.
“MIA will test the commercial opportunity for microgrids and demonstrate how concessionary finance can unlock progressively larger proportions of private capital as risks are discovered, priced and mitigated,” said Alexia Kelly, CEO of the new MIA facility, in a statement.
Access to affordable financing has been a major barrier to the deployment of microgrid solutions, particularly in frontier markets. A handful of startups have been forging ahead, but with limited funds and relatively small projects.
The MIA plans to accelerate the microgrid market through an “ecosystem approach to finance” that leverages grants and loans from foundations and development institutions to attract private-sector capital. “MIA will directly deploy risk-tolerant project and corporate debt and equity, both independently and with co-investment partners,” according to a statement. Rigorous data collection and analysis will help to prove the commercial business case for microgrid investments and findings will be made public to inform the broader investment community.
Founding partners Facebook, Microsoft and California-based Allotrope have joined with more than a dozen implementing partners and observers to form the MIA. Other participants include cKers Finance in India, CrossBoundary Energy in Africa, California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF), Electric Capital Management, Morrison & Foerster LLP and GivePower. The MIA is expected to accept pilot project applications in the third quarter of this year, and to begin distributing funds to selected projects next year.
“Facebook’s mission is to connect the world, and we’re exploring different ways to engage with partners to support energy-efficient systems that drive sustainable connectivity — including our support of the Microgrid Investment Accelerator to help spur investment in affordable and clean distributed generation,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an email. “Ultimately, we anticipate these types of partnerships will assist in broadening access to our connectivity efforts.”
Allotrope has assembled a portfolio of clean energy start-ups that could benefit from participating in MIA project development. It stands to reason they will. The roster is made up of:
- Brightfarms builds local hydroponic greenhouse farming systems that produce competitively priced fresh produce for supermarkets while avoiding the environmental costs of industrial farming and transport logisitcs.
- GlassPoint Solar develops low-cost concentrated solar thermal installations for enhanced oil recovery, with its first commercial installations operating in Oman and California.
- Lucid Design is an energy efficiency software company, offering a user-friendly “dashboard” and middleware that integrates multiple building management systems to a single platform – BuildingOS – for commercial buildings and campuses.
- Natel Energy is developing a low-head hydropower turbine enabling cost-effective production of low impact, distributed base-load energy from existing low dams, irrigation canals and other low-head hydro resources.
- Terviva is commercializing proprietary varieties of the Pongamia tree, an oil-seed plant that can grow in sub-optimal agricultural land while using less water and fertilizer than other crops. Pongamia seed oil is ideal for biofuel production and the seed cake can be used as animal feed, potentially creating attractive economics for both farmers and land owners.
- V4 Advisors is a Dubai-based technology company offering online platforms to monitor, audit, and share environmental data, focusing on resource-intensive Middle Eastern markets. The V4A reporting platform is the first in any emerging market to have been certified under the GHG Protocol of the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Source: Green Tech Media