Enterprise turning manure into clean energy scales up
20 August 2019 at 4:57 pm
An Australian-Cambodian social enterprise turning manure into a clean source of energy for cooking has successfully launched a pay-as-you-go model, giving thousands more Cambodians access to the technology.
ATEC Biodigesters use the methogenic bacteria from cow manure to produce biogas for cooking, and with over a million cows in the country, it’s not an energy supply Cambodians are running low on.
The enterprise has distributed around 1,300 devices since launching in 2016.
The traditional method of cooking over a fire using fuel such as wood poses significant health risks, with smoke inhalation one of the leading causes of death in the country.
The biodigester can also process pig or buffalo manure and can be connected to a toilet to treat human waste, improving household and village sanitation.
For cooking, the biogas runs through an underground gas line into the kitchen where cooking pots are heated on a stove.
The new finance model will give 7,500 houses access to the clean energy system and will cut down 33,000 metric tons of carbon emissions per year.
Under the PAYGO scheme, farming households who are unable to pay for the cost of a biodigester upfront can opt for monthly installment payments instead of paying a large sum upfront.
Ben Jeffreys, CEO of ATEC, said he hoped the more affordable option meant they could impact more families in rural developing communities.
“We are pleased to offer a payment schedule that is flexible enough to allow as many people as possible to benefit from the cost-savings as well as a healthier lifestyle,” Jeffreys said.
He said launching a PAYGO scheme for biodigesters could be a game-changer in the clean energy sector, with the aim being to replicate the success the solar industry had with the scheme.
There are an estimated 205 million farms that could benefit from biodigesters, with the majority being in Asia.
Debt financing for the PAYGO system was raised through US-based impact investor Beneficial Returns. Singapore-based Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) then facilitated the deal through its Impact Partners platform.
Robert Kraybill, the chief investment officer of IIX, said they were proud to be partnered with an enterprise tackling such big social and environmental issues.
“Access to affordable and clean energy is critical for tackling poverty in Asia. It also plays a role in women’s empowerment, as women are often the primary producers of food and providers of water, heating, and cooking fuel for their households,” Kraybill said.
“ATEC is growing rapidly through innovation and a commitment to addressing a range of social and environmental challenges while generating a financial return.”