Standard Bank
Businessmen chat in front of a Standard Bank logo in Sandton outside Johannesburg October 25, 2007. REUTERS

Standard Bank Group said on Tuesday it hopes its non-disclosed investment in solar lamp projects in the Asia-Pacific region will generate millions of U.N.-backed emissions offset credits for its carbon portfolio.

The bank has partnered with CarbonSoft, a London-based company that helps firms get through the bureaucracy of registering emission-reduction projects under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

This is our second investment in CarbonSoft's activities, reflecting our confidence in their performance, said Geoff Sinclair, head of carbon trading at Standard Bank in London.

By switching to solar lamps from kerosene-fuelled lighting, families can reduce their fuel bills, improve their respiratory health and reduce the chances of household fires, he said. It also makes great business sense.

The solar lamp projects will be located in countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and small island nations. The two companies have been promoting similar projects in East Africa.

Families in East Africa can save up to 25 percent of their annual incomes by switching from kerosene fuelled lighting to solar lamps, the statement said.

The 1997 Kyoto pact's mechanism enables companies and governments in developed nations to invest in cleaner projects in the developing world in return for carbon credits, called Certified Emission Reductions (CERs).

Under the scheme, one CER is issued for every tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent saved if a project meets a strict U.N. registration process.

CarbonSoft focuses on the CDM's so-called programme of activities (PoAs), which allows an almost unlimited number of similar projects to be grouped in a single programme. This cuts down on auditing costs and provides the spur for cheaper technologies to cut emissions.

The initial expected volume of the bundled solar lamp emission reductions is 140,000 to 160,000 tonnes per year, according to Sinclair. Although CarbonSoft will be looking to increase this, he told Reuters, noting that the PoAs are expected to be registered before the end of next year.

To date, Standard Bank has bought or plans to buy more than 10 million credits from PoAs, Sinclair added.