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CDC-backed Gridworks has committed $7.5 million (ZAR106.7 million) to Mettle Solar Investments, a pan-African commercial and industrial solar company.

In a media statement, Gridworks, the new company launched in June by CDC Group to invest in electricity networks across Africa, announced its first investment.

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Mettle Solar is a commercial and industrial solar platform company that provides a variety of affordable renewable energy solutions to commercial and industrial customers.

Welcoming the announcement, Francois Verloren van Themaat, CEO of Mettle Solar Investments, said: “We are very excited to have CDC through Gridworks, as a major investor in our business.

“This investment will allow Mettle to offer its renewable energy products to clients in additional jurisdictions across the African continent and will give a big boost to our ongoing efforts to make renewable energy more accessible and affordable to everyone.”

The investment will enable Mettle to expand its provision of cleaner and cheaper sources of electricity for businesses across Africa.

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The investment will also reduce carbon emissions and aims to demonstrate the commercial viability of solar power for businesses in Africa, a region where 70% of total energy demand currently comes from commercial and industrial customers.

The investment in Mettle was originally developed by CDC in parallel with the recent formation of Gridworks and the recruitment of its team.

Mettle currently has 29 projects (15.4MW) in operation in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, and Indian Ocean islands with a further 12MW currently under construction.

It plans to expand its footprint to other markets in sub-Saharan Africa, including Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria and Madagascar.

Mettle also owns a 50% shareholding in Sustainable Power Solutions (Pty) Ltd, one of the leading solar engineering firms specialising in the construction and operation of solar photovoltaic systems in sub-Saharan Africa.

This investment will support CDC’s Climate Strategy and contributes to Sustainable Development Goals 7 and 13, which aim to ensure access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy for all, as well as combat climate change, by supporting and increasing the proportion of renewable energy in African countries. Less than 2% of the total installed capacity in Africa currently comes from solar.

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By providing cheaper, reliable and cleaner energy to businesses Mettle will help to reduce dependence on diesel generators and is a pioneer in the use of battery storage for business users in Africa. Solar Storage offers the potential to completely displace diesel consumption in off-grid sites as these systems are now competitive when compared to fuel powered generators.

Gridworks is dedicated to developing and investing in transmission, distribution and off-grid electricity infrastructure in Africa. Capitalised by CDC Group, the UK Government’s development finance institution, Gridworks intends to invest over $300m of long-term capital in African electricity infrastructure over the coming years and its investment in Mettle Solar is an important milestone in that journey.

Simon Hodson, CEO of Gridworks, said: “I’m delighted that Gridworks is able to make this investment and support a very capable management team in its expansion plans. With many countries in sub-Saharan Africa experiencing regular electricity shortages there’s a clear need for a reliable power supply to businesses. Our investment will help Mettle bring clean, reliable power to businesses in new African markets where power is often unreliable and leaves a greater carbon footprint.”

Chris Chijiutomi, Head of Infrastructure Equity at CDC Group, said: “Enabling safe, stable, affordable and sustainable energy to commercial and industrial users is a key part of the CDC infrastructure investment strategy.

“We are excited that Gridworks is partnering with a business supported to date by a respected shareholder group who have built a strong team with the relevant expertise to further grow the business in some of CDC’s priority countries. Access to reliable power is a key barrier to economic development, we believe this investment will be one of many through Gridworks in the power distribution sector.”