Angella Rainford – CEO and Founder of Soleco Energy and Rekamniar Frontier Ventures

Angella Rainford is the leading force behind the Paradise Park Project. A brand-new 51.5 MWp PV renewable energy solar farm in Jamaica, the largest of its kind and as of June 2019, generating the cheapest energy ever produced in the country.

Jamaica, being an island nation highly dependent on fossil fuels for the production of energy, has historically only been able to offer an unreliable electricity supply at a retail price of around USD 30 cents/kWh. Paradise Park has produced clean energy which it delivers to Jamaica’s national utility at USD 8.5 cents/kWh, and as a native of Jamaica, Ms. Rainford says, “to reduce the country’s energy bill is quite exciting given how high the costs have been.”

“To reduce the country’s energy bill is quite exciting given how high the costs have been.”

An accomplished investment professional, Ms. Rainford is applying her experience from the world of finance and business to help Latin American and Caribbean nations transition their energy needs from traditional fossil fuels to renewables. With a mutual interest in solar projects in Jamaica, last month, Deetken Impact connected with Ms. Rainford to talk about sustainable impact, being a woman entrepreneur, and her journey to becoming a renewable energy leader.

Taking a leap of faith

Prior to her shift into the renewable energy sector, Ms. Rainford held distinguished positions at global investment banking companies, including Goldman, Sachs & Co. “When in banking”, reflects Ms. Rainford, “I had always known that I wanted to create and build something. And so there becomes a point where you must take a leap of faith to recreate yourself as an entrepreneur. I was always fascinated by developing countries, having come from one. So I resigned and started looking at investment opportunities in emerging markets”.

“And so there becomes a point where you must take a leap of faith to recreate yourself as an entrepreneur.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. Initially focusing on a venture in the Jamaican agriculture sector, Ms. Rainford experienced an early setback where, following a frustratingly delayed process, a deal did not come to fruition. On the cusp of taking off to explore opportunities elsewhere, a colleague phoned Ms. Rainford with news of changes to regulations that would support the development of energy projects independently of the Jamaican government.

“In terms of investment in developing countries, it was right down the fairway of what I was interested in – with the added benefit that it was my own country. So following words of encouragement, I began exploring investment opportunities into one of the most important sectors for any country – the energy sector.”

Creating a complementary renewable energy strategy

Paradise Park, a brand-new 51.5 MWp PV solar farm in Jamaica, the largest of its kind and as of June 2019, generating the cheapest energy ever produced in the country.

Ms. Rainford’s intuitive and applicable understanding of private equity investing coupled with her foresight, tenacity and sound business acumen has enabled her, over the last 8 years, to make an exceptional contribution to a sustainable energy future in Jamaica.

In 2011, Ms. Rainford founded Rekamniar Frontier Ventures as a vehicle to develop critical power projects in emerging markets. For Paradise Park, Ms. Rainford raised equity capital from a strategic partner, private equity fund and also a Jamaican pension fund, demonstrating success in bringing in external financing to galvanize local financing. There remain many challenges to raising capital for emerging market investments given the perceived risks in these markets; “the art”, Ms. Rainford says, “is to understand the risks (macro and idiosyncratic) that investors may identify and structure mitigants to alleviate the concerns the investors may have. Furthermore, targeting investors which already have a committed interest in and understanding of emerging markets proves to be an easier pitch.”

More recently in 2019, Ms. Rainford founded a sister company, Soleco Energy, to plug a gap in the market by offering smaller solar energy solutions through on-site distributed generation of electricity.

Ms. Rainford explains how her two companies offer a complementary energy strategy: A“Rekamniar focuses on large-scale solar and hydro-electric projects which feed energy into a national grid. Being utility-scale projects, we must wait for government-lead tenders and then win a competitive auction process. In addition to this, the grid can only accommodate so many renewable projects, so these tender opportunities are limited and can also involve a multi-year effort. Soleco’s distributed generation model, allows us to approach commercial and industrial customers and develop a series of distributed
projects while we wait for the next government-lead tender and utility auction”.

“Soleco was born out of a desire to continue helping Caribbean and Latin American nations with the energy transition from traditional fossil fuels to renewables, but on a smaller scale.

Paradise Park has produced clean energy which it delivers to Jamaica’s national utility at USD 8.5 cents/kWh – less than one third of the historical USD 30 cents/kWh.

“With both companies, we create a fungible network that reduces the cost of energy, where all can benefit and that’s always a positive”.

Being a woman in the renewable energy sector

As an entrepreneur in a sector traditionally male-dominated, Ms. Rainford is a role model for women and gender equality. She is a leader who has combined business, environmental sustainability and community engagement to accomplish extraordinary results.

When discussing the advantages of being a woman in the energy sector, Ms. Rainford says: “I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing women in the industry and I believe our tendency to employ soft skills when communicating and leading, to show empathy and awareness of social issues, gives us a great advantage. I’m also a woman of colour and I’m very proud of that. My experience, especially in developing markets, is that people remember me”.

She went on to emphasize the importance of playing to your strengths as a female. “I always say to any young woman navigating challenges in her career – don’t focus on the disadvantages and play to your strengths. Recognize your inherent abilities and utilize them to overcome any self-doubt with self-confidence.”

“Recognize your inherent abilities and utilize them to overcome any self-doubt with self-confidence.”

Angella Rainford and her Soleco Energy colleagues at the site of a new solar project

As a developer in solar energy, Ms. Rainford plays to her strengths. She creates a degree of connectivity and builds rapport with the communities she works with to produce innovative energy solutions. “Understanding and relating to people to develop relationships has been crucial for me as a developer in the energy market and so I have not found being a woman working in the energy sector to be a disadvantage in Jamaica”.

Economic, environmental and social impacts

The Paradise Park project is a milestone for Jamaica. It illuminates the untapped potential for Caribbean and other emerging markets to reduce energy expenses while enhancing sustainability, climate resilience and strengthening their economies through renewable energy.

Ms. Rainford’s journey also highlights the critical role funders play in building a region’s sustainable energy infrastructure. Deetken Impact is a strong believer in partnering with local entrepreneurs, not just the large companies, to build a diverse ecosystem and stimulate the transition to a green and renewable energy future. Our Deetken Impact Sustainable Energy (DISE) funds invest in clean energy projects in the region, and our valuable networks and strategic partnerships have been fundamental in the successful development of a variety of projects that make an impact and generate strong returns.

As an Asset Manager with a strong focus on promoting women entrepreneurship and gender equality (ILU Women’s Empowerment Fund), in addition to driving the transition to clean energy throughout the Caribbean and Central America, Ms. Rainford’s journey deeply resonates with us. We believe the future of investing is in protecting our future, and the more people with the same mindset in this space, the better.

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