EEP Africa funding for 2 productive energy use projects in South Africa

Plentify will deploy HotBots in 500 homes in Cape Town. Image: Plentify.

Two South African projects are part of EEP Africa’s 2020 funding call focused on the productive use of energy and the circular economy.

Cape Town-based energy technology company Plentify and waste management company Witech will each receive funding to run pilot projects that could determine how they could step up their work.

EEP Africa’s 2020 call on clean energy green growth received 357 applications for projects in 14 countries in southern and eastern Africa. These were assessed based on conceptual innovation, development impact, business model and financial viability. Twenty-six projects were identified in the 2020 call for funding.

Productive use of energy through intelligent water heating

Plentify will pilot a technology that turns domestic water heaters (geysers) into smart thermal batteries for smart, clean energy. Electric water heaters waste half the energy they use and increase demand at peak times when solar power is not an option.

This contributes to the unsustainability of South Africa‘s irregular, polluting and expensive electricity supply. Plentify HotBots are smart devices that only turn on water heaters when needed and at times that are optimal for the power grid.

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Lauri Tuomaala, Head of Portfolio and Finance at EEP Africa, said Plentify stood out as a unique and innovative combination of energy efficiency and energy storage solution: “Technology is being used in a new way, coupling electrical and heating systems to provide demand flexibility for the grid. “

The funding from EEP Africa will allow Plentify to expand its pilot project in Cape Town and demonstrate the environmental impact and economic value of the new technology.

“The project will help prove the business case for solar PV power to municipalities that may still be reluctant towards renewables. A proven concept has significant expansion potential in South Africa and regionally, ”said Tuomaala.

The funding of € 299,955 is planned for a period of two years. Plentify had funds to run a pilot project without EEP assistance, but it would have been much less (20% of the scope of this project). “EEP funding allows the pilot to be implemented on a scale sufficient to demonstrate the environmental and economic value of the technology, resulting in a transformative impact,” explained Tuomaala.

Plentify will now expand its pilot project to transform water heaters into smart batteries. They will deploy HotBots in 500 homes in Cape Town. Each HotBot saves 1 MWh of energy and 1 tonne of CO2e emissions per year.

“The success of this project is proof of the technology and the business model, setting Plentify on the path to large-scale deployment. This will be demonstrated by a greater number of municipal (and non-city) clients and by the ability to secure financing from private assets. If the pilot project goes well, the company has an ambitious goal of increasing to 300,000 units sold over the next five years, ”said Tuomaala.

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Waste-to-energy plan for solid waste

On the other hand, Witech Africa will assess the feasibility of a modular waste-to-energy plant in the Athlone industrial zone in Cape Town. The proposed plant will produce 2.7 MW of electricity and thermal energy from municipal solid waste, using technology developed by a Finnish company. The facility will be designed to take an integrated approach to power and heat generation for municipalities and industrial buyers.

EEP Africa funding will support the research and studies necessary to develop a bankable project. Witech will consider gasification as a comparative or complementary technology and plans to create a local non-profit organization to educate schoolchildren and the community on waste management.

Witech Africa would be the first plant in South Africa to use mobile grate incineration technology to turn municipal solid waste into energy. When operational, the plant will divert more than 60,000 tonnes of waste from landfills in Cape Town, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Funding for the water-energy link is increasing

Tuomaala said it has received a number of applications for innovative energy and water projects, and several grants were awarded in the 2020 call. The portfolio includes OffGridBox which deploys container hubs which provide clean energy and water across Rwanda; Waste processors installing an anaerobic digester in a local fishery in Uganda to power water pumps and use the wastewater for irrigation; ENdep, which will provide a solar-powered cold room to fish merchants in Lake Victoria, Tanzania, which will include wastewater treatment; and two projects still under procurement.

EEP Africa’s 2019 call had a gender theme: Advancing Women in Clean Energy Leadership. This call attracted 285 applications and funded 18 projects. The 2018 call attracted 530 projects and 28 projects were funded. For the 2020 call, EEP’s investment committee awarded a total of $ 9.99 million (€ 8.3 million) to 26 projects. Further information on the projects is available in the 2020 EEP Africa Market Report.


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