The fund, which was launched in October last year and has R500-million to disburse, aims to encourage and promote investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy by small and medium enterprises.
"We would like to support the growth of green industrialisation in South Africa through a proactive approach in supporting investments into the green economy," says Rentia van Tonder, head of the IDC's Green Industries strategic business unit.
These investments include funding systems, technology or equipment that makes businesses more energy efficient, more productive or less reliant on conventional power from the grid.
One recipient of a loan from the GEEF that has already recorded significant savings is a Cape Town-based textile manufacturer which has become the country's first carbon-neutral clothing company.
Impahla Clothing is an SME that produces sportswear and leisurewear under licence to an inter-national brand and has installed a grid- connected rooftop photovoltaic system that now generates 25% of the company's electricity requirements.
"Electricity accounts for more than 90% of our carbon emissions and is a scarce resource that is vital to the successful operation of our business," says company managing director William Hughes. "In order to reduce our carbon footprint, Impahla Clothing took the decision to find alternative sources of energy."
Its selection of the grid-connected system enables it to draw 25% of its power needs from this renewable source, with the remainder supplied from the grid. This is a more cost-effective solution as the system doesn't require batteries and thereby avoids additional investment in storage capacity.
The 30kW peak system installed by Impahla Clothing has resulted in annual energy savings of 48.5MWh, a reduction of 50 tonnes of CO2 emission every year. The full cost of the investment will recovered in the energy savings realised and the project has a 14-year payback.
"Being a small business with limited financial resources, Impahla Clothing approached the IDC for assistance in the funding of our solar project and we were extremely pleased when IDC agreed," says Hughes.
Self-generation is increasingly seen as one of the preferred methods of reducing carbon emissions and energy needs – particularly for heavy industries.
South African Calcium Carbide (SACC) is a Durban-based producer of chemicals used in desulphurisation in the steel industry that has demonstrated the clear business benefits of investing in a green solution to generate its own power.
Through its application to the GEEF, the company was able to install a 7.8MW co-generation plant to replace part of its power supply from the grid. This has resulted in an 18% saving in electricity costs and around 45 000MWh per year reduction in energy needs that will provide a payback in little more than three years.
"The decision to invest in a co-generation plant came on the back of increasing electricity prices and constraints, as well as growing environmental concerns," says SACC general manager Claudio Siracusano. "We spent close to R7-million on electricity a month, and this new co-generation plant will cut this bill by about 20%. The additional 8MW capacity will enable the company to operate at full production compared with 70% capacity because of electricity constraints."
On top of these efficiencies, SACC is also able to reduce its carbon emissions by 46 000 tonnes per year.