productive use of energy Plentify geyser
Plentify will deploy HotBots into 500 homes in Cape Town. Image: Plentify.

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

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

EEP Africa’s 2020 call on Clean Energy Power Green Growth received 357 applications for projects in 14 countries across Southern and Eastern Africa. These were evaluated based on concept innovation, development impact, business model and financial sustainability. Twenty six projects were identified in the 2020 call for financing.

Productive use of energy through intelligent water heating

Plentify will pilot technology that transforms household water heaters (geysers) into intelligent thermal batteries for smart, clean energy. Electric water heaters waste half the energy they consume and drive up demand at peak times when solar is not an option.

This contributes to South Africa’s erratic, polluting and costly electricity supply’s unsustainability. Plentify’s HotBots are smart devices that turn water heaters on only when needed and at optimal times for the electric grid.

Lauri Tuomaala, EEP Africa head of portfolio and finance, said Plentify stood out as a unique and innovative combination of energy efficiency and energy storage solution: “The technology is used in a novel way, coupling electric and heating systems to provide demand flexibility for the grid.”

EEP Africa financing will enable 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 to municipalities that may still be reluctant about renewables. A proven concept has significant scale-up potential in South Africa and regionally,” said Tuomaala.

The €299,955 funding is intended to last two years. Plentify had funding to conduct a pilot without EEP’s help, but it would have been much smaller (20% of this project’s scope). “EEP funding is enabling the pilot to be implemented at a sufficient scale to demonstrate the environmental and economic value of the technology, leading to transformative impact,” explained Tuomaala.

Plentify will now expand their pilot project transforming water heaters into intelligent batteries. They will deploy HotBots into 500 homes in the City of Cape Town. Every HotBot saves 1MWh in energy and 1 tonne in CO2e emissions per year.

“Success for this project is proving the technology and business model, setting Plentify on a path to large-scale deployment. This will be evidenced by more municipal (and non-city owned) customers and the ability to secure private asset financing. If the pilot project goes well, the company has an ambitious goal of scaling up to 300,000 units sold in the next five years,” said Tuomaala.

Waste to energy plan addressing solid waste

Witech Africa on the other hand will assess the feasibility of a modular waste-to-energy plant in Athlone industrial area of Cape Town. The proposed plant will generate 2,7MW 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 electricity and thermal generation for municipalities and industrial off-takers.

The EEP Africa financing will support the research and studies needed to develop a bankable project. Witech will consider gasification as a comparative or supplemental technology and plans to establish a local non-profit organisation to education schoolchildren and the community about waste management.

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

Funding for the water energy nexus is growing

Tuomaala says they received a number of applications for innovative projects at the energy and water nexus, with several awarded financing in the 2020 call. The portfolio includes OffGridBox which deploys container hubs that provide clean energy and water across Rwanda; The Waste Transformers installing anaerobic digester at a local fishery in Uganda to power water pumps and use wastewater for irrigation; ENdep which will provide solar-powered cold storage for fish traders at Lake Victoria, Tanzania which will include wastewater treatment; and two projects still in the contracting process.

EEP Africa’s 2019 call had a gender theme of Advancing Women in Leadership in Clean Energy. That call attracted 285 applications and funded 18 projects. The 2018 call attracted 530 projects and 28 projects were financed. For the 2020 call, EEP’s Investment Committee awarded a total of $9,99million (€8,3million) to 26 projects. Further information on the projects is available in EEP Africa’s 2020 Market Report.