I started my career in the solar industry about 8 years ago focusing on developing the markets for C&I and residential solar in several countries in East and Southern Africa for one of my previous employers. Back then, there weren’t many financing options for businesses looking to get into solar both from traditional banking channels or via other developers through things like corporate PPAs. This is one of the reasons why most corporates who were installing solar at that time did it via outright purchases, which meant that adoption was quite slow. A lot has changed since then, as a lot of developers have come on board, as well as several big banks in South Africa. More financing options are becoming available as South Africans are experiencing the worst electricity rationing cycles in the country’s history.
One of the country’s biggest banks, Absa, has announced that struggling businesses will soon be able to apply for their share of the R50 million ($2.8 million) in grants to keep their businesses running.
In a move aimed at supporting and growing small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Absa will be providing up to R50 million in energy subsidy under its Green Asset Finance program for qualifying SMEs. Absa’s energy subsidy is the only grant of its kind providing some much-needed support to small business customers to finance solar installations and keep the lights on. Eligible SMEs that have their commercial properties financed by Absa will be contacted by Absa and need not take any action to apply for this support. Subsidy amounts will be determined based on clearly set out factors and can reach up to R50,000 or 10% of the overall installation value. Identified and qualifying SME customers will be invited by Absa to opt-in or opt-out of the subsidy for their green finance needs.
“SMEs make a significant contribution to job creation and economic growth in South Africa. However, in many instances, the operating environment over the past few years has made it very difficult for these vital enablers to grow and thrive,” said Ronnie Mbatsane, Managing Executive for SME Business at Absa Relationship Banking.
“Load shedding in particular continues to hamper the potential of many SMEs. Through these subsidies we are helping to put liquidity back into the hands of small businesses to power their business into full production,” Mbatsane adds.
This launch follows the considerable investments Absa has already made in the renewable energy sector, including the solar offering for Absa Home Loan clients, a personal loan option for retail customers to procure alternative power sources, and bespoke solutions supported by subject matter experts who have assisted SMEs to find the best option for their particular needs.
Absa has been a leading financier in energy solutions, enabling customers to determine energy needs, calculate cost and link to a trusted energy supplier.
Additionally, through the Supplier Value Chain development initiative, Absa has supported SME installers in funding their SAPVIA PV Green Card accreditation, supporting emerging township economies, pipeline commercialisation and allowed Absa’s SME customers to participate in the value chain.
“The Absa energy grants underscore our commitment to this vital segment and connecting individuals and businesses to communities,” concludes Mbatsane.
This is a great development for the solar sector and also for small businesses in South Africa. I am looking forward to following this program as it progresses.
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