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Powering Progress: Renewable Energy in the Somali Region

As the Somali Region emerges from conflict and instability, the renewable energy sector will play a crucial role in its continued growth.

Access to affordable energy drives development.

It is essential for cold storage in the fishing and dairy industries; to power operating theaters and respirators in hospitals; and to keep irrigation systems flowing on farms. Telecoms need reliable power to keep Somalis connected globally, and electricity allows businesses to stay open later and streets to be lit for enhanced security at night.

But fewer than a quarter of Somalis have access to electricity. Instead, most rely on biomass, like charcoal or wood, for their energy needs.

The Somali energy sector is currently made up of independent power producers, relying mainly on imported petroleum based fuel for energy production, distributed across inefficient grid systems.

The minority of Somalis who can afford electricity pay up to 6 times more per kilowatt hour than other countries.

Despite its lack of basic infrastructure for traditional energy production and distribution, the Somali region has the highest potential for onshore wind power in Africa. Additionally, it receives some of the best solar irradiation in the world.

While the current percentage of electricity derived from renewables by Somali power producers is low, several companies have committed to expanding over the next 5 years, which would increase their renewable power capacity up to 39%.

Significant interest in growing the renewable energy market was apparent at a recent conference in Hargeisa that attracted over 300 participants representing the entire Somali region and 16 different countries. For the first time, entrepreneurs, power companies, and donors came together to promote the dialogue and development of renewable energy in the region.

However, for the sector to scale up, investment is needed to improve grid efficiency and develop credit mechanisms and pay-as-you-go plans to bring affordable energy access to potential customers.

Just as important as infrastructure are the skilled technicians who maintain these systems. Investing in human capital by improving linkages between Somali and international technical programs, establishing third-party accreditation mechanisms, and increasing the number of high quality training programs will be necessary to sustain the industry over the long term.

In the 21st century access to energy has become a basic human need and foundational to the Somali Region’s economic development, health, and security.

Source:  Shuraako, Aug 2016