This blog is co-authored with SunFunder's Nico Tyabji
The “Beyond the Grid (BTG) Solar Fund,” SunFunder’s new, $50 million capital pool for financing solar projects in developing countries, announced its first closing in October 2016. The BTG fund will provide increased debt finance support for companies engaged in projects designed to leapfrog inadequate electricity grids in the emerging markets of Africa and Asia by building reliable photovoltaic generation and distribution capacity.
According to Ryan Levinson, CEO and Founder of SunFunder, "SunFunder would not exist if it were not for Jim and a small handful of early investors who believed in our team and mission from the very beginning. Jim's consistent support, both as our first equity investor and first Solar Note investor, his mentorship and as an advocate for SunFunder, has been instrumental in so many ways."
SunFunder Solar Solutions
In developing countries, approximately 1.2 billion people (or 17% of the world’s population) have no access to electricity, while another 1 billion people have only unreliable access (collectively, almost 1/3 of humanity), according to the International Energy Agency. Specifically, more than 95% of people who live without energy are concentrated in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. In response to this deficit, the off-grid solar sector has attracted over $500 MM in investments to address the challenges and opportunities provided by off-the-grid solar solutions.
SunFunder is a debt finance company specializing in the emerging market solar industry. SunFunder. unlocks capital for off-grid and grid-deficit solar projects around the world. It offers investors the opportunity to invest in a diversified, vetted, and high impact portfolio of solar loans. Its deep knowledge of the market allows it to tailor lending products for the sector.
Since 2013, SunFunder has made over 80 loans to 30 companies in Africa and Asia, directly improving energy access for over 2.5 million people. SunFunder raises capital through private debt offerings, and maintains a 100% repayment rate to investors. It innovated its Solar Notes series to raise this capital, which quickly replaced the smaller crowdfunding platform campaign it started out with. The impressive support received and success achieved is worth review.
The anchor investors in the Beyond the Grid Solar Fund include the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), MCE Social Capital and The Rockefeller Foundation. These industry heavy hitters and investors are proud to partner with SunFunder to provide electricity access to over a billion people by supporting the first-of-its-kind debt facility to unlock needed capital for companies and projects that both meet and serve the energy needs of millions worldwide.
The first close in the BTG fund amounts to nearly $21 million, which SunFunder will start deploying immediately. SunFunder provides inventory/working capital loans, receivables financing and project financing to manufacturers, distributors, developers, installers and retailers that provide solar energy in countries in Africa and Asia including: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, and India.
“The BTG fund will finance our strong pipeline of off-grid solar transactions. It allows us to expand some of our new financial products for the sector, such as SAFI, our structured receivables finance solution for pay-as-you-go solar companies, and move into commercial-scale project financings,” said Levinson. The goal is to mobilize more commercial debt investors to deploy large amounts of capital for solar initiatives in emerging markets.