The Brief | October 31, 2023

The Brief: Plug in to VertueLab’s Aina Abiodun, tales from the conference circuit, green bond for clean cooking, EVs in India, de-risking grid finance

The team at


🎃 Spooky Halloween Greetings, Agents of Impact! 👻

⚡ Get Plugged In. Nigeria-born climate entrepreneur and professional nomad Aina Abiodun is bullish on place-based climate innovation. “There is nothing more urgent than when you’re living the disaster,” says Abiodun, who joined the nonprofit investor VertueLab early this year. Portland-based VertueLab has funded climate tech in the US Pacific Northwest for 15 years. “Let’s tackle this thing from a local perspective and see how we can build it out.” Join Abiodun and Plugged In host Sherrell Dorsey on LinkedIn Live, Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.

Featured: Event Circuit

Urgency and optimism as Agents of Impact gather around the world. Autumn is conference season for impact investing and sustainable finance. ImpactAlpha has had you covered. Our editors and reporters fanned out across the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, Climate Week in New York, the GIIN Impact Forum in Copenhagen, the GLI Forum Latam in Medellín, SOCAP last week in San Francisco, and other events. Whew! Catch up on ImpactAlpha’s exclusive coverage to get news, highlights, deals and gossip from across the circuit.

  • Boosting Black ownership at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Catch up quickly.
  • Urgency and optimism at Climate Week NYC. Get a taste.
  • Opportunities in the green transition at the Africa Climate Summit. Zoom in.

Dealflow: Clean Cookstoves

Burn Manufacturing issues $10 million green bond for clean cooking in Africa. More than two billion people still use kerosene, wood, charcoal and other rudimentary, dirty fuels for most of their cooking. Clean cooking is now front and center in Africa’s climate conversation. Kenya-based Burn Manufacturing has manufactured and distributed four million clean cookstoves in 10 African countries since 2011. Its original cookstove model was designed to burn biomass fuel more efficiently and was sold on a pay-as-you-go basis. It has since added electric and liquid petroleum gas, or LPG, designs (there are arguable climate advantages to LPG, given the scale of firewood and charcoal use in Africa.) Burn’s $10 million bond, among the first green bonds in Africa’s clean cooking sector, was supported by FSD Africa and verified by Agusto & Co. Proceeds will help Burn set up a manufacturing facility in Nigeria and increase the company’s production capacity by 50%. 

  • Energy access. Most Africans rely on charcoal and firewood to meet their cooking needs. In Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other countries, charcoal and firewood production is a leading cause of deforestation. Just 43% of Africans have access to electricity (and not necessarily reliable access). It would cost just $25 billion per year, or just 1% of total global energy investment, to achieve universal energy access in Africa.
  • Check it out.

Indian electric motorbike manufacturer Ola Electric rakes in $384 million. Bangalore-based Ola Electric, launched by the ride-hailing company Ola, has raised nearly $1.6 billion since 2019 to manufacture electric vehicles and EV infrastructure, starting with e-scooters. Electric two- and three-wheelers make up the large majority of EV sales in India (see, “Small vehicles have investors thinking big about India’s e-mobility transition”). The latest equity and debt capital will help Ola Electric expand its operations and finish a lithium-ion battery gigafactory in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. “At Ola, our vision is to end the ICE age in automobiles,” said Ola Electric’s Bhavish Aggarwal, referring to vehicles with internal combustion engines. “Our upcoming gigafactory will be a big leap in India’s journey towards becoming a global EV hub.” The investment round, led by Temasek, values Ola Electric at $5.4 billion.

  • Current challenges. Ola Electric is India’s e-scooter market leader. The company has had challenges with the performance of its scooters. Last week in Pune, an Ola Electric scooter caught fire, prompting a response from the company. On social media, a wave of customers have shared complaints about slow repair service. Ola Electric has a $1.5 billion revenue target. For 2022-2023, it reported an operating loss of $136 million on revenues of $335 million.
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Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • South Africa’s Standard Bank and Liberty Group invested $160 million in a planned $1 billion fixed-income fund for Africa’s clean energy transition. (STANLIB)
  • Mauritius-based Envolt is issuing $45 million in green bonds to develop 13 solar plants across the island. (Afrik21)
  • France’s CarbonFarm raised $2.6 million from BPI France, Climate Capital, AgFunder and others to use satellites to verify carbon credits for sustainable rice farming. (AgFunder)
  • Woman-led Gozen, based in Istanbul and San Francisco, scored $3.3 million to make lab-grown leather with no added plastic materials. (TechCrunch)

Signals: Deploy!

DOE awards $1.3 billion to ease grid transmission bottlenecks. Electric-vehicle factories and renewable energy plants are opening across the US, thanks to federal tax incentives. Not keeping pace: investments in the nation’s aging electric grid. The average wait time to connect a power project to the grid is five years. The latest funding awards from the Department of Energy address that bottleneck with $1.3 billion for three regional transmission lines across six states. The transmission funding follows $3.5 billion announced last week by the DOE’s Grid Deployment Office. The grants, for 58 projects in 44 states, represented the largest-ever direct federal investment in grid resilience and reliability, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said. 

  • Derisking. Under the Transmission Facilitation Program, part of the bipartisan infrastructure law, the government can help de-risk projects by pre-purchasing a portion of the proposed capacity of transmission lines. The three projects include Cross-Tie, a 214-mile line in Utah and Nevada; Southline, a 175-mile project stretching from New Mexico to Arizona; and the Twin States bi-directional line in New Hampshire and Vermont, which would enable the export of excess solar and wind energy to Canada.
  • Global demand. Investment in renewable energy around the world has nearly doubled since 2010. In contrast, investment in grids is stuck at around $300 billion per year, according to the International Energy Agency. At least 3,000 gigawatts of global clean power projects are waiting for interconnection; half of those projects are in advanced stages. For nations to meet their climate goals, almost 50 million miles of new or revamped transmission lines are needed by 2040, the IEA projects – the equivalent of adding another global grid. “Delays in grid investment and reform would substantially increase global carbon dioxide emissions, slowing energy transitions and putting the 1.5-degree-Celsius goal out of reach,” the agency concludes. 

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Claudia Da Conceicao, ex- of Standard Chartered Bank, joins the IFC as Southern Africa regional director… The Miller Center for Entrepreneurship is looking for a senior manager of impact investing… Energy Impact Partners seeks a recruiter in New York… Social Finance is looking for a policy writer in Washington, DC, or Boston… Also in Washington, Jobs for the Future has an opening for a senior manager.

Mastercard Foundation is hiring an access to finance and financial inclusion lead in Lagos… Phillips Foundation is recruiting a remote part-time impact investing advisor… Ahead of COP28, the Allied for Climate Transformation by 2025, or ACT2025, consortium, will host a webinar on responding to the needs of the climate crisis in times of uncertainty, Thursday, Nov. 9. 

👉 View (or post) impact investing jobs on ImpactAlpha’s new Career Hub.

Thank you for your impact!

– Oct. 31, 2023