Sujay Malve remembers the nightly frustration when the power went out while he did homework or prepared for exams as a university student in India.
“You’re studying late at night for a test the next day and the power just shuts off,” says Malve, who is 40 and grew up in Pune, about 150 kilometres southeast of Mumbai. “Having no light is really not nice, especially before a big exam. I looked at what was happening around me with electricity and kept asking why, but there was nothing I could do. I think that is what led to my career today.”
Malve runs Canopy Power, a company in Singapore that specializes in the electrification of businesses and communities that are not connected to the power grid. Canopy designs and builds “microgrids” across Southeast Asia that combine solar panels, wind energy, battery storage and smart controls to offer reliable electricity on remote islands in places like the Philippines and Indonesia. On some islands, even people who have a good income and understand the impact of climate change are forced to run diesel generators day and night, because their businesses have no other energy source.
“In Southeast Asia, there are thousands of islands where businesses are not connected to electricity grids,” Malve says. “They have to burn diesel for electricity, and this is expensive, dirty and unreliable. You have no idea what it is like to carry big diesel tanks on small boats to get more fuel two times a week. It’s a big pain. My team believes that electricity can change lives, and it can empower people. Especially in this region. ”
To expand his company’s business, Sujay is considering an investment from the Jasmine Private Market Fund, a financing vehicle set up in 2021 to help companies fighting climate change through innovative solutions and business models. In September 2021, the European Investment Bank approved an investment of up to $30 million for the fund, which is raising a total of $200 million. This investment is among dozens of funds the EIB Group selects each year for investments that foster social innovation and climate action around the world.
Understanding climate change
“Southeast Asia needs this support,” says Melissa Kang, the founder of JI Capital Partners, the private equity firm in Singapore that runs the Jasmine fund. “The region has 650 million people and a young demographic, which is good for long-term economic development. However, its rapid economic growth has increased carbon emissions significantly. Unfortunately, big wind and solar farms are of limited use because of a weak and fragmented power grid.”
Kang and her team work with many entrepreneurs who have ideas to help the region reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change. The microgrids offered by Malve’s company is one solution. Using artificial intelligence to improve energy efficiency in buildings is also compelling and will have a direct impact on emissions. More investments in water and waste treatment could help many countries in the region. Better management of forests and fishery is another way to improve sustainability. Creating employment opportunities for women and supporting female entrepreneurs will improve the talent pool and offer significant value for society and the economy. Investors often overlook many of these growth opportunities, Kang says, but they can create a lot of impact and provide good financial returns.
“Southeast Asia has a lot of potential,” Kang says. “It is the fifth-largest economy in the world, but not enough climate action is happening quickly to increase sustainability and inclusion. This will be detrimental to people living in Southeast Asia, and the rapidly rising emissions will harm the planet as a whole.”