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.
Abdiwahid Mohamed Hersi – CEO, Global Sea Food International (also IFAD):
“Before going to the market you have to have a quality fish. A quality fish depends on ice, depends on cold storage.”
Edna Adan - Founder, Edna Adan Hospital:
“We are a blood bank. We store vaccines. We store reagents. So I need constant electricity.”
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.
Aidarus Abubakar – Managing Director, Solargen Technologies:
“Streetlights have completely changed how people view night. Both in terms of social interaction and business and everything.”
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.
Hussein Abdi Duwalli – Somaliland Minister of Energy and Minerals:
“We use diesel to generate power in this region and we need to move away from that. You know, burning fossil fuels is not only harmful to the environment, but for us who haven’t really produced any petroleum yet, it’s costly to us.”
The minority of Somalis who can afford electricity pay up to 6 times more per kilowatt hour than other countries.
Hassan Ahmed Hussein – Executive Board Member, General Electric Company:
“We want to bring the price of electricity down to 20 cents and below and that’s the only time that there will be medium and large scale industries which will be coming in.”
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%.
From converting traditional diesel grid systems to hybrid structures that utilize a larger percentage of renewables, to small-scale systems providing electricity to households in off-grid towns and villages, reductions in the cost of technologies and the growing number of renewable energy projects demonstrate the viability of the market.
Johnny Weiss - Principal, Johnny Weiss Solar Consulting
“We’ve reached a point where solar is at parity and wind energy is as well. It’s actually cheaper to do renewable energy solutions as well as more environmental all over the world now. The time has come to get involved with solar power.”
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.