SIDI signs a new partnership in Colombia with Soluna Energia

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SIDI has concluded a strategic investment in Soluna Energia to contribute to the access of Colombian rural communities to clean and regular energy thanks to solar power.

More than half of Colombia’s particularly rugged territory (55%), and around 40% of the population, are not connected to the national electricity grid. Soluna is a Colombian company specializing in the installation, operation and maintenance of solar home systems. Founded in 2020, its mission is to facilitate access to electricity for rural communities unconnected or with limited access to the national grid, thanks to tailored photovoltaic solutions and a flexible payment model for consumers.

Strategic investment

For SIDI, this is a first step in the development of its climate portfolio in Latin America, directly in line with its new 2023-2026 strategic plan. In addition, this is the company’s3rd investment in Colombia, representing an interesting diversification of its portfolio in the country. SIDI currently finances and supports a coffee producers’ organization(Cencoic) and a microfinance institution (Confiamos).

Social and environmental impact

Since its inception, Soluna has installed solar home systems for over 300 households in 19 communities in Vichada in the east of the country, including two indigenous communities, enabling a total of 1,600 people to benefit from electricity in rural areas. 43% of beneficiaries are women, 40% are low-income families, and 30% are considered poor. The social objectives shared with Soluna are clear, particularly in favour of disadvantaged rural communities excluded from basic services. Soluna targets mainly, but not exclusively, small-scale farmers and indigenous people in rural areas. Customers who don’t have the capital to buy with cash are offered the chance to pay bit by bit, thanks to the innovative “Pay as you go” prepayment system.

According to surveys carried out among users, 30% are making productive use of the solar energy supplied by Soluna, 2/3 of whom say they have seen an increase in their income. Impressive results, with 90% of beneficiaries reporting an improvement in their quality of life. From an environmental point of view, the solar energy produced in this way mainly replaces kerosene lamps and expensive, polluting diesel generators: 55% of customers say they no longer need kerosene solutions.

SIDI’s partnership officer recently visited the small village of Casuarito on the Venezuelan border and saw for herself, with Yurika, a young woman of Venezuelan origin who runs a small business there, how Soluna’s energy is helping to improve her living conditions and those of the 3 people with whom she lives. Casuarito is connected to the local grid, but this provides a very irregular service, with power cuts during the day, and especially at night, for eight hours at a time. With temperatures in the area remaining high at night, fans are a precious commodity. Early in the morning, thanks to Soluna’s energy, she can use her small appliances to prepare breakfast and recharge her cell phone before leaving for work. The cost of this energy is more than affordable, she says, and in her case it’s shared with her family. The system, supplied with four bulbs and two double sockets, works very well, and Soluna’s technicians make follow-up visits two or three times a year. Yurika much prefers solar power, and will be installing more panels on the roof of her small business when she needs them.

Investment and development plan

SIDI is therefore taking a stake in Soluna, alongside other social investors, as part of a fund-raising operation that will enable Soluna to move from a start-up phase to an ambitious development phase. With a 10-year development plan, Soluna plans to install 60,000 solar home systems. In addition to its financial investment, SIDI brings to the project its experience in working with rural and farming communities, and in particular in supporting their strengthening.

This partnership between SIDI and Soluna is a new step in promoting access to renewable energy in rural areas of Colombia. The combination of Soluna’s ambitious social and environmental approach and SIDI’s long-term vision, embodied in the acquisition of an equity stake in the company, demonstrates the transformative potential of solar energy to improve the living conditions of vulnerable populations while helping to combat climate change.