Portfolio Partner Profile
The Solar Energy Transformation (SET) Fund
The Solar Energy Transformation (SET) Fund managed by SunFunder is an $70 million fund that aims to increase access to capital for high impact beyond the grid solar companies and projects across Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. By financing solar businesses through the SET Fund, SunFunder expects to directly impact 2.8 million people with improved access to clean energy and mitigate over 480k tons of CO2 emissions annually.
Started in 2012, SunFunder is a solar finance business driving a global energy transformation to solve energy access and climate change in a sustainable and scalable way. The SET Fund significantly expands SunFunder’s work to provide innovative financing solutions to companies with varying needs who are working across the solar energy access value chain.
SunFunder was a pioneer in offering debt financing for off-grid solar companies serving household consumers, the SET Fund is part of their expansion to support income-generating and productive-use assets and small commercial and industrial (C&I) solar projects that are needed to scale access to electricity in emerging economies.
Over 2.2 billion people around the world have either no access to grid electricity or have unreliable power. Solar energy can solve a large part of the problem in an economical and scalable way. There is a large opportunity for residential and commercial solar enterprises to provide clean energy access, more reliable power for businesses and new jobs in developing economies by deploying distributed solar systems.
While equity is required for solar companies to set up, demonstrate and innovate, debt capital is needed to reach scale. However, for many companies in the beyond-grid solar sector the availability of scalable and appropriate debt financing is a major bottleneck, which is what the SET Fund was built to address.
Featured Impact Story
Solar power across East Africa
SunFunder borrower Questworks installs a rooftop solar system in Kenya.
Calvert Impact Capital was SunFunder’s first ‘7-figure ticket’ investor when it provided a $2 million senior investment to the Solar Empowerment Fund, SunFunder’s 1st private debt fund. Since our investment in 2016, SunFunder has grown significantly, including closing it's 2nd fund, the $47 million Beyond the Grid Solar Fund with financing from several public and private investors. As of 2020, SunFunder had deployed a cumulative total of $104 million to 54 solar businesses in 23 countries, having helped more than 7 million people
Calvert Impact Capital's funding enabled SunFunder to expand their capacity and helped highlight the importance of specialized financial intermediaries in the solar energy sector. By supporting SunFunder’s growth from a young fund manager to a more established and sophisticated one with a strong footprint in Africa, Calvert Impact Capital has also helped build and strengthen the track record of the renewable energy sector and the social enterprises operating in it.
Providing tailored clean energy solutions
SunFunder is providing debt financing for up to 3MW of commercial and industrial (C&I) projects for clients including top tier financial institutions and small and medium-sized enterprises. These projects are expected to mitigate over 100,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually. One exciting example of this work is Sunfunder’s investment in Daystar Power, a solar developer in Nigeria.
Daystar Power specializes in providing solar power and energy efficiency solutions for businesses in the commercial, industrial, and agricultural sectors. These solutions result in at least a 20% reduction in energy costs and a 50% reduction in diesel consumption for end users. Rim Azirar, who led the transaction for SunFunder, highlighted the scalability in both the structure of the loan and Daystar's business model:
“It is a project finance-like structure that can support the company’s strategy for rapid buildout in Nigeria, through their highly scalable business model.
The Daystar team offers its clients power solutions tailored to their operations and is impressively scaling the company’s reach by standardizing deployment, both important factors in the emerging and often fragmented C&I solar sector in Africa.”
The company’s success combines a high value offering with cost minimization through optimized system design, contracting and maintenance. Christian Wessels, co-founder and chairman of Daystar Power, commented:
“We are happy to partner with SunFunder in our mission to bring clean, continuous and affordable power to West African businesses in support of their growth and environmental goals. The support of SunFunder enables the beginning of a new phase of accelerated growth for our company.”
According to a recent study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Nigeria has the largest potential for C&I solar in Africa because of the scale of the opportunity for diesel replacement. Daystar is a pioneer in the market, offering end-users increased reliability as well as lower energy costs through solar and storage systems.
SunFunder and Daystar are also well aligned on gender parity. Both companies boast leadership teams comprising almost 50% women. Furthermore, SunFunder was co-founded by a woman and the chief executive of Daystar in Ghana is the youngest female Nigerian CEO in West Africa’s renewable energy sector. Daystar actively hires female engineers and managers and seeks to create an environment where women can drive development in Africa.
Read more about Daystar Power on Sunfunder’s blog.
Required Credits: A solar installation in Nigeria by SunFunder borrower Daystar Power