Shell acquires 20% stake in Orb Energy

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The natural gas and renewable power Shell New Energies unit of Anglo-Dutch fossil fuel giant Shell has acquired a near-20% stake in Bengaluru-based solar rooftop company Orb Energy.

Shell has not disclosed how much it paid for the investment, which was announced this morning.

“The fresh investment will help more Indian SMEs [small and medium commercial enterprises] – a largely under-served part of the market – benefit from lower-cost solar power,” said Damien Miller, founder and CEO of Orb Energy, speaking to pv magazine. “Shell’s investment will power the next phase of our growth and ensure that more under-served SMEs in India can benefit from clean, lower-cost electricity from solar.”

In a press statement issued to announce the move, Shell Energy Solutions VP Brian Davis said: “We were attracted by Orb Energy’s focus on providing cleaner and affordable energy solutions to SMEs in India. This is a vital and growing sector with great potential to contribute to the country’s renewable energy ambitions. We look forward to supporting this company in reaching its potential as we move closer to Shell’s energy access ambition. That is, to provide a reliable electricity supply to 100 million people in the developing world by 2030.”

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Business model

SME commercial solar rooftop specialist Orb offers extended, 3-4 year payment terms to clients able to make a 25% down payment to secure the installation of a PV system. Investors in the company include the Netherlands Development Finance Company FMO and investment funds registered in Luxembourg (Bamboo Capital Partners and Pamiga SA), Switzerland (Rianta Capital) and the U.S. (Acumen Capital Market Funds I).

“This fiscal [year] we should touch 40-50 MW in rooftop systems and plan to expand our base further,” Orb CEO Miller told pv magazine.

Founded in 2006 by Miller and NP Ramesh, Orb Energy claims to have sold more than 160,000 solar systems in India with a cumulative rooftop generation capacity of around 75 MW. The company has two factories: one producing solar panels and another which manufactures solar water heating systems. Orb also has operations in Kenya, where it is seeking to replicate its India model.