INNOVATION IS ON THE AGENDA: Rentia van Tonder has been the driving force behind Standard Bank's strategy to become the most active funder of power projects in Africa.

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Rentia van Tonder

Head of Power, Standard Bank

Since joining the company five years ago, Rentia van Tonder has been the driving force behind Standard Bank's strategy to become the most active funder of power projects in Africa. Heading up its power sector, she leads the bank's ambitious agenda of innovation as the continent looks to secure funding solutions for an ever-evolving range of projects--some of which incorporate innovative techniques that are taking it into uncharted territory.

Van Tonder believes that sponsors, developers, banks and development finance institutions (DFIs) must challenge the old ways of doing things and find innovative new partnerships if they are to succeed in African markets. Standard Bank launched its new strategy in the power sector two years ago.

"We realised that if you continue to focus solely on the old-fashioned, centralised utility model, you may get stuck with projects that are difficult to develop and bring to a close," said van Tonder. "So we built a strategy based around a more diversified power sector model, enabling growth in two key areas: centralised and decentralised markets."

Decentralised power is typically made up of more holistic power supply solutions, which include off-grid, captive-power opportunities. This is an area where new funding possibilities are emerging, such as solar power firms that supply captive-power solutions to a range of companies, mainly more industrialised and mining/ resource players.

"We have been diversifying our portfolio and, at the same time, seeing how we can unlock 'normal' power projects, as well as corporate lending," said van Tonder.

Standard Bank has an extensive presence across Africa, with a footprint in 20 countries, which gives it a strong platform from which to unlock some of the opportunities in the power sector that extend well beyond its South African base.

Renewables is an area where there are sizeable financing opportunities. "We've learned over the past few years that renewable project sponsors and developers--for renewable independent power projects (IPPs) in particular --are looking for a clearly defined, enabling environment," said van Tonder.

"These projects are successful if they are clearly defined through a policy environment that make it easier for governments to partner with the private sector, and where all partners clearly understand the requirements."

SPEEDING UP

Change is coming, though progress can be slow. The problem is not...

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