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Powering Somalia

Dalsan Power Founder and SOGEA Chairman Bashiir Mohamud talks about the future of renewable energy in the country

Interview by TSI WriterCan you give us a background to yourself… (Education/ training, work experience)?

I was born in Mogadishu and grew up in Galkaio. I completed my high school education at Omar Samatar Secondary School in Galkaio, and thereafter joined Swedish Technical College where I graduated in 1996.

I continued with my education in Sweden and graduated with a Higher National Diploma in Electronics & IT at Gothenburg Technical Institute. After that, I studied undergraduate BEng (Hons) Electrical & Electronic Engineering at Coventry University England in 2017.

I am the owner of Dalsan Power Solar Technology company based in Somalia and the Chairman of the Somali Green Energy Association (SOGEA). SOGEA is an association for green energy stakeholders in Somalia. I have worked for many companies, especially in Sweden and England. Have been in the private and public business for some time since 2006.

How would you describe yourself?

I am a father from the diaspora who currently lives in the country. A patriot who loves his country and loves everything about being Somali. I am an ambitious visionary who is keen on contributing to the stability and development of my country and our people.

Why did your partners see it necessary to form Somali Green Energy Association, and what does it do?

We realized, as renewable energy sector players in Somalia, that we cannot achieve the full potential of this sector individually. We saw that we needed a common voice that reflects the common goals and objectives of developing and promoting renewable energy businesses and enriching the renewable energy sector. It was understood that establishing a representative umbrella that unites green energy players is critical.

The goal of the association is to strengthen renewable energy governance for a just, prosperous and sustainable future. We do this through awareness creation, capacity building, and networking/partnerships towards ensuring that energy is shared and allocated equitably, efficiently, and sustainably, making it available to all.

Your organization provides support for public outreach, awareness, and education on renewable and green energy sources and resources; how are people responding to this?

Community reaction to the association’s activities is varied. The community understands the benefits of using green energy whether it is to trade in green energy and its technology or invest in companies in the sector. They are also interested in learning more about green energy sources such as solar and wind turbines.

And, universities students who recognize green energy utilization as a way out of unemployment and as a way of saving the environment continuously demand more training and seminars on renewable energy.

Can you comment on renewable energy as an entrepreneurial space in Somalia…?

It is clear that there are encouraging opportunities for green energy entrepreneurship in Somalia. A study by AfDB, World Bank, IFC, and USAID acknowledged that; “Somalia has the highest resource potential of any African nation for onshore wind power and could generate between 30,000 to 45,000 MW. Solar power could potentially generate an excess of 2,000 kWh/m2.”

That said, private companies interested in establishing a viable green business in Somalia must abide by the rules and regulations of the FGS and register with the relevant authorities. It is equally important for them to contact the association and apply for membership in order to secure their rights.

The Somali Green Energy Association believes that affordable solar power products and services to the five million people in Somalia currently living without energy is possible by 2030. What do you think will have to be done for this to become a reality?

Providing electricity to 5 million Somalis in less than nine years will not be an easy task. However, with preparedness and cooperation to ensure efficient implementation of the project, it is possible. We can decentralize energy distribution by encouraging mini/microgrid energy deployment to reach districts, villages, urban and pre-urban areas. This will be done in line with an inclusive policy and procedures framework that motivates funders and foreign investments to reach Somalia’s renewable energy sector. Tax exemptions for green energy generation equipment, capacity building, and raising public awareness are necessary too.

Your organization intends to identify, initiate, promote and engage in applied research, innovation, and policy formulation in the renewable green energy sector in Somalia. Why do you think this is important?

Although there have been some organizations or individuals that have tried to write about or operate in this sector, there is not enough reliable research data to transform the growth and development of RE Somalia. Yet, in order to achieve the country’s potential in RE production, it is necessary to have an institutional research base that can represent green energy science and can act as a knowledge development source in Somalia’s green energy sector.

What do you think the renewable energy market in Somalia will look like in, say, ten years’ time?

If it continues like this, with constant investment and awareness, I am confident that the Somali community will experience a change in mindset towards the use of RE. Infrastructural development in the sector will also bring with it cheaper and integrated green energy needed across the country.

The weather in Somalia is ideal for solar power production and the production of other forms of clean energy such as wind energy. What does the private sector have to do if renewable energy is to become a proper business sector in the country?

Somalia’s wind speeds are quite high, probably even the fastest in the world. The country also has extended periods of sunshine; therefore, if the necessary investment and funding is obtained, particularly if banks can open their doors to support the renewable energy sector, then Somalia can become a hub for renewable energy and rise to the point of selling power to its neighbors.

Who do you actually work with, in terms of organizational partners and so forth, and what role do they play?

We work with local organizations, international organizations, and regional partners. Although we are a new organization, we are focused on reaching out to those who are interested in our information and activities. We partner with those who care about the sector in terms of capacity building, information sharing, networking, public awareness, and developing the RE sector in general.

What are the main advantages in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing costs for end-users of clean energy, as well as for the profitability of businesses involved in the sector?

A new study led by a senior researcher (Jason West, Ph.D) indicates that “reducing greenhouse gas emissions around the world will lessen climate change which could lead to the prevention of millions of premature deaths due to air pollution over the next century.” The study also highlights additional benefits to air quality and human health.

And for businessmen, diversifying energy supply and reducing dependence on imported fuels is a step forward and the beginning of the development of your business. If you’re using resource energy such as oil or natural gas, you can expect to have a large energy bill just about every month. Solar energy gives you an opportunity to cut your energy bills while also safeguarding the earth’s health.  You don’t need to worry about the high cost of power at your establishment, you can be certain that your solar panels will keep your energy costs low for years.

“…reducing greenhouse gas emissions around the world will lessen climate change which could lead to the prevention of millions of premature deaths due to air pollution over the next century.”

Jason West, Ph.D, Senior Researcher

Since becoming operational, what assumptions about renewable/ green energy has your team come across that shocked you?

One of the things that surprised me was that the traders or installers who sell solar devices are not very knowledgeable about the RE sector. As a result, their customers suffer from the use of poor-quality solar panels and related accessories.  There is also the combination of design and installation of the system which may lead to loss of money and resources, causing undue disappointment for solar customers. 

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