Exclusive interview with Berrie de Jager, Head: Natural Resources, Commercial Banking at Standard Bank, a sponsor at the African Utility Week Industry Awards in the Small-Scale Sustainable Energy Project (under 5MW) category.
“More and more of our clients approach us to provide financial solutions to finance solar asset investments, beyond the meter”
Let’s start with some background on Standard Bank’s involvement in the energy sector – there is a proud history there.
Standard Bank Group is the largest African banking group by assets. Our strategy is to be an African focused, client-centred, digitally enabled universal financial services organisation, which drives Africa’s growth and creates value for all our stakeholders. A key driver of economic growth is availability and affordability of electricity. We therefore adopted a focus strategy for the energy sector where we are employing sector specialists with comprehensive knowledge of the power and infrastructure sector to enable our clients and their businesses.
What projects in the African energy sector that Standard Bank is involved in currently are you most excited about?
The energy space across Africa has been an extremely exciting environment in recent years. While there are still good opportunities in the Utility and Independent Power Producer space I am extremely excited about off - grid opportunities. On the back of reduced technology costs, enhanced storage efficiencies and continued escalation in electricity tariffs, more and more of our clients are approaching us to provide financial solutions to finance solar asset investments, beyond the meter. These include business models like small scale grid tied solar PV systems, Energy Efficiency solutions etc.
What in your view are the main challenges that the energy sector faces on the continent?
Access to energy remains one of the biggest challenges in Africa. About 1.2bn people globally have no access to electricity and a large portion of those people live in Sub – Saharan Africa. Access to electricity is just one of many challenges that Government’s across Africa are experiencing and governments do not always have adequate resources available to fund much needed capital expenditure in the energy sector. With that comes a massive opportunity for the private sector who can embrace opportunities to develop commercially viable solutions, especially in the off grid space.
How important is renewable energy for Africa’s energy future?
Renewable energy is key to the development trajectory of countries across Africa and as a key enabler for economic growth for the emerging market. Renewable energy is not only cleaner but is also more affordable. While room exists to roll out large scale Independent Power Producing solutions on the supply side, distributed generation solutions can also be provided, much closer to the point of demand. Solar Home Systems, Rooftop PV, Mini Grids and even Commercial and Industrial mini plants are all examples of innovative solutions rolled out across Africa.
What is your vision for the sector?
Historically Standard Bank’s Power and Infrastructure team has focussed on providing project finance solutions for large grid dependent IPPs. While this remain an important part of the value chain, we are extremely excited about opportunities in the off grid solar space. These are the generation opportunities not associated with the state utility and are not part of a national distribution network.
These stand-alone systems typically generate electricity beyond the meter. Our vision is that this market niche will continue to grow, especially on the back of enhanced storage technology. We have a team of sector specialists who are active in thought leadership initiatives and who are geared to support our clients with financial solutions relating to their energy needs. As a key player in energy ecosystem, we are also providing enabling services to all businesses operating in the energy supply chain.
You are a sponsor in the African Utility Week Industry Awards in the Small-Scale Sustainable Energy Project (under 5MW) category – how important is it for the bank to be involved in the awards, particularly in the small scale energy project category?
We are very excited about our sponsorship. We believe that this is a rapid growing sub - sector within the energy sector at large. Entrepreneurs with innovative and sustainable business initiative in this area, deserve encouragement and acknowledgement for their initiative. We realise that entrepreneurs are always moving forward and are always looking for their next best opportunity. This resonates strongly with us as a Commercial Bank and we cannot help but to applaud such commendable performance.
What will be your message at the event?
Standard Bank is excited about businesses operating in the energy sector. For us, it is important to understand our clients, their businesses and also the sectors in which they are operating in. The Power sector is one of those sectors where we are playing a thought leadership role and where we are geared towards provision of comprehensive financial solutions.
What are you most looking forward to at the event?
To connect with our clients and to share their passion on their growth journey in this very important sector.
Anything else you would like to add?
As South Africa’s leading Business Bank, we understand what it means to do business in Africa and beyond. Whether your business is on to its next big deal, big idea or big win, we’d love to come along for the journey by offering specialist product expertise, strong local capacity and global distribution reach.