Q&A: Angella Rainford, CEO and Founder, Soléco Energy & Rekamniar Frontier Ventures
Published 07 July 2022
By Kamogelo Motse, Head of Research and Partnerships, Climate Council
The Climate Council’s Kamogelo Motse got to chat with Angella Rainford, CEO and Founder, Soléco Energy. Angella took time to speak with Kamo about her work at Soléco Energy, her work at Rekamniar Frontier Ventures where they have co-developed the largest solar farm in Jamaica, and the recent market trends in energy storage solutions she is excited about.
Can you tell us about Soléco Energy and what the company does?
Soléco Energy is a renewable energy development company. We develop distributed and utility scale projects for clients across the Caribbean and Central American region.
What does your role at Soleco Energy entail?
I am the CEO and Founder of the company. Given that Soléco is a start-up, I am involved in several aspects of building the company. I primarily drive our business development activities and am also responsible for building our team, corporate strategy, and financing our company. My role is constantly evolving as the company becomes more mature and increasingly a lot of my tasks have moved from hands-on production of models and materials to delegation of tasks. It keeps the role exciting.
What did you study at university and do you believed that helped with the career path you have chosen?
I studied Government at Harvard but started with a degree in Biochemistry as I was on the pre-med track. I changed to Government my sophomore year as I realised I really did not want to pursue a medical career and I found the core topics of politics, philosophy and economics to be far more interesting to me. At my graduation ceremony, I remember one of the speakers saying that the University viewed its objective as teaching us how to learn rather than having students remember certain facts which can be regurgitated, etc. So, while the subject matter such as economics and having a greater appreciation for geopolitical events and its impact on our business has been useful, that skill of continuous learning has been the most valuable from my university experience.
Can you tell us about the work Rekamniar Frontier Ventures does and the projects you have done in the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa?
We co-developed the largest solar farm in Jamaica, representing a $65 million investment in the country’s infrastructure and delivering one of its cheapest forms of electricity. We have worked as an advisor to Helios Investment Partners on energy transactions they were assessing. I have since created a second start-up called Soléco Energy and our focus is mainly on distributed solar and energy solutions for large industrial and commercial clients across the Caribbean / Central American region. We will construct our first set of projects under this strategy for a poultry processor in Jamaica. Soléco is currently active across several Caribbean nations including Jamaica, Barbados, and The Bahamas.
Are there any recent market trends in energy storage solutions that you are excited about?
We are excited to see the increased adoption of energy storage across a range of markets, particularly large and established markets. Our target countries tend to be late adopters of technology and so this is critical for enhancement of the technology and also to drive the cost curve in a direction which will improve the economics of energy storage and consequently, its adoption.
What made you want to choose a career in developing and financing renewable energy projects?
I fell into the renewable energy space and so cannot really say that I consciously chose it! With this said, it aligns with my values and leverages the skills and network I have developed during the course of my career. I enjoy the creative process of building something from scratch and having a vision which I can then drive through to make into a reality. The development part of what we do fulfils this. I worked in private equity at Goldman Sachs prior to founding my own company and I draw upon those skills a lot. Finance is a core part of implementing renewable energy projects just as much as the engineering side of things. Our projects ultimately are a stack of legal documents reflecting a financial model shifting value across the various stakeholders and participants of the transaction.
What skillsets would you advise young women to acquire to become successful in a career in sustainable investing?
Have a strong base in corporate finance. You don’t need to be a banker but it is super important if you want to be an investor in this space. You should understand the numbers. Even as a developer, having the understanding of how the project economics works and how the financing of these projects is achieved, will put you in a much stronger position. A number of developers, in particular, who do not have this background, get taken out of the deal, effectively, once the capital comes in. This is a shame as the developers tend to be those dreamers, risk takers, and creators who pull the projects together in the first place. To not understand the financing, is in my opinion, a recipe to be super vulnerable at that negotiating table.
A short bio on Angella Rainford:
Angella is the founder of Soléco and Rekamniar Frontier Ventures (“Rekamniar”). Rekamniar co-developed one of the largest solar plants in the Caribbean and the largest in Jamaica (51 MWp). Prior to this, Angella worked at Goldman Sachs in the Merchant Banking division (Principal Investment Area) in London and New York.
Prior to joining Goldman, she worked as part of the portfolio team at Sterling Stamos, a private investment management firm specialized in alternative and multi-asset investment solutions. She began her career as a Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company in New York.
Angella has served as an advisor to Helios Investment Partners, a $3.0 billion private equity fund based in London focused on investments in Africa. She has also served on the Board of Directors for GK Capital Management, the financial advisory and investment arm of the GraceKennedy Group, and currently is a Director of PanJam Investment Limited, GK UK Foods, and JN Money Services, a subsidiary of the Jamaica National Building Society.
Angella holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge. She also graduated with a BA (magna cum laude) in Government from Harvard College.
Angella has travelled to 70 countries and lived on 3 continents. She is a keen motorcyclist, classical pianist, and has her private pilot license. She has also climbed 3 of the 7 summits.
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