CCAC Household Energy Hub - Insight Meeting


On 27 January 2023, the CCAC Household Energy Hub welcomed Xavier Pierluca, Managing Director of Spark+ Africa Fund, and Esther Altorfer, Strategy Chief Officer of to provide insights and on scaling up financing for clean cooking.  A brief summary of some of the key points raised in presentations and in the lively Q & A session alongside biographies of the presenters are as follows: 


Summary of Presentations

Xavier Pierluca - Spark+ Africa Fund 


  • The Spark+ Africa Fund launched in March 2022 is a partnership between the Clean Cooling Alliance, Enabling Qapital, Woodman Asset Management, and Stichting Modern Cooking.  
  • The clean cooking market is evolving in promising ways: 
    • Commercial players with viable business models  
    • True entrepreneurs and stronger management teams able to build profitable companies, attract investment  
    • Carbon markets driving improved unit economics and scalability  
    • Better products integrating technology for usage monitoring, PAYG, impact monetization  
    • Greater demand from urban/higher middle-income customers due to generational change, urbanization  
    • More prioritization by governments due to climate commitments, social justice/gender issues, safety, etc.  
    • Leading to larger financing with better risk/return profiles for investors  
    • More robust and demonstrable impact cases for grant makers and philanthropists 
  • Spark+ Africa Fund investments range between $500,000 to $7 million to retail and distribution companies to provide finance and microfinance, which facilitates affordability and ensures access to clean cooking with modern products and fuels for those with the lowest median incomes. Key investments include: 
    • Senior debt secured by inventory, receivables, etc.  
    • Quasi-Equity, sub-debt/mezzanine to offer companies long-term, equity-like capital 
    • Tripartite distributor financing to provide working capital to smaller, less well-capitalized/profitable distributors 
    • Specialized carbon debt finance transactions 
  • By March 2023 Spark+ Africa will have invested nearly $25 million, representing half of the money they have raised so far.  

Ester Altorfer - 

  • uses biodigesters alongside a full packaging of training and financing to deliver carbon mitigation, sequestration, and climate change adaptation programs, targeting the 400 million family farms that produce 70% of food consumed. plans to install 250,000 units in the next three years to reach over 1.5 million people, reducing an estimated 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. 
  • has a threefold approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. First is proper manure treatment, wherein the methane from animal waste is captured instead of being released into the atmosphere. Second is the provision of a reliable source of renewable energy, acting as an alternative to fossil fuels. Third is creating organic fertilizer in the place of chemical fertilizer enabling soil carbon capture. 
  • has on the ground teams who visit farmers and provide training and monitoring support to ensure that they can make the most of their biodigesters. There are 50,000 farms with biodigester products in 31 countries; has Country Offices in Colombia, Mexico, India and Kenya.   

Q&A Session Highlights: 

  • Spark+ Africa Fund invests in projects in sub-Saharan Africa that generate carbon credits, thereby generating revenue to reimburse the fund and develop more projects. Spark+ Africa Fund is working to develop projects that could be funded under Article 6 to help raise the ambition of the NDCs.  
  • The size of a biodigester must be appropriate to the context and demand. Consequently, on a property with 200 cows, but only two people using the fuel a smaller biodigester would be installed to avoid methane being released. However, is doing R&D about piping biogas to different households in areas where people do not have their own animals. Also, they are exploring the potential of generators that can provide services and potentially produce electricity from biogas.  
  • uses the official IPCC and UNFCCC methodologies to ensure that the validity of the carbon offsetting from their projects, they are then audited and verified by the Gold Standard to ensure that they meet their SDG 3 and 5 goals.  

About the presenters

About Xavier

Xavier Pierluca is an investment professional with 25 years’ experience, 18 of which in the field of impact investing managing both private equity and debt funds. He has structured and raised several funds in access to energy, microfinance, fintech, SME finance, and healthcare for over USD 700 mn with family offices, DFIs and Institutional Investors through plain vanilla and blended finance structures.

Prior to launching EQ, he was a founding Partner at SIMA where he structured, raised and managed one of the largest solar off-grid solar debt fund. He also engages in Corporate Finance Advisory and has led the valuation and fundraising of one of the largest global microfinance group.

Xavier was CIO for Bamboo Finance, and structured, raised and managed innovative PE funds including one of the first impact and emerging market fintech fund. Previously, Xavier worked for the Deutsche Bank Impact Investing Division which pioneered the structuring and fundrasing of the first ever commercial microfinance funds. He also worked as a management consultant for Deloitte Consulting and Ernst and Young Corporate Finance in the United States and in France. He specialized in strategy & operations, mergers & acquisitions and access to financing facilitation for mid-cap companies.

About Esther

After graduating from a double-master’s degree in Business, Finance and International Affairs in France and Switzerland, Esther Altorfer worked in impact investing in Germany, microfinance in Bolivia, and corporate investment banking in Mexico.

In 2014, her path crossed, a promising Mexican start-up in the waste-to-energy sector in rural areas –it was love at first sight. She joined as Finance Manager, focusing on strengthening the in-house lending program, and successfully led’s first round of fundraising. She transitioned to the COO role and opened’s new offices in Central America, East Africa and India offices between 2016 and 2018. From 2019 to 2022, she held the role of Director for East Africa, during this time she consolidated the Kenya operations,  built a strong African team and opened projects in 8 African countries. In December 2022, she transitioned again to a global position, this time as the Chief of Strategy Officer.