The green economy is here, and there’s no stopping its growth and the potential for change in overhauling sectors from energy production to building construction, waste disposal and recycling.
A case in point: Between January and March 2020 half of Ireland’s electricity came from renewables, with wind generated and solar power making up a significant amount.
In order to make the green economy more accessible to investors, entrepreneur Paul Browne launched GreenCrowd.ie, a crowd funding platform in 2019.
The platform is currently focused on raising funds for two SMEs: Solarstream, a Carlow-based photovoltaic (PV) solar panel installer and Avoncourt Building and Construction Limited.
Central to GreenCrowd’s investment strategy is the Employment and Incentive Scheme (EIIS) through which it has raised more than €4m to date.
In 2021, the fund plans to diversify by promoting EIIS private placements into a number of community solar farm projects as well as an electric mobility fleet management company and expect to fundraise over €10m Browne said.
Solarstream previously raised €1.3m under EIIS and is now looking to raise a further €1m in its final year of fundraising.
The green energy company was set up by Browne in 2018, who says that despite the turbulence caused by Covid-19, business is holding up well.
This year in particular, business has been particularly strong from the commercial sector, which allows the company to work at scale. Browne expects the domestic sector to bounce back next year.
Worldwide there is a growing trend for businesses and domestic consumers to generate their own electricity with surplus energy being fed back into electricity grids. The uptake in interest comes in tandem with breakthroughs in the technology to make solar panels, which is driving down prices and improving the efficacy of the panels.
According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, since 2010 solar PV has been the fastest growing power generation technology worldwide and it represents a huge opportunity to decarbonize the global energy system.
“Solarstream has a proven track record,” says Barry Parker, commercial director at Solarstream. “It offers a solid asset backed investment opportunity in a sector with proven technology and predictable performance returns. Investors can expect to receive a projected net cashflow of €25,000 for a €50,000 investment inclusive of the tax relief,” Parker added.
Browne is upbeat about the outlook for 2021: “The GreenCrowd platform is attracting huge interest from businesses in the green and sustainable sector as we seek to raise funds and investors are delighted with the opportunity to invest directly.”
GreenCrowd is also arranging an EIIS private placement for Avoncourt Building and Construction which will be building social and affordable homes, as well as commercial construction projects. Browne explained that Avoncourt was established by experienced builders and project managers who identified a gap in funding which had the effect of cutting investment for smaller construction projects outside of Dublin, thereby leaving medium-sized construction companies with difficulty in securing working capital to break ground.
Avoncourt is seeking to raise €3m for working capital to fund its building programme as the construction prepares to ramp up for a bumper year in 2021 and beyond. This year’s budget has allocated an increase in public capital expenditure by 12 percent to over €9.1 billion for the coming year.
GreenCrowd are ambitious in their targets and expect to provide a mixture of debt and/or equity finance along with rich sector expertise to assist entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. “For small businesses seeking Investment we give them the opportunity to secure start up and development investment directly from a wide range of Investors’ says Annemarie Callaghan, CFO of Solarstream.
For GreenCrowd, green really does mean go.