Power OffGrid: Innovating the Energy Market in Somalia
Allowing people to access the energy grid could be crucial for Africa’s development. Unfortunately, due to its vast extension in some areas of the continent being connected to the grid is either very complicated or quite expensive. For the most remotes communities in Somalia this was the exact situation until Guled Ahmed started Power OffGrid.
Power OffGrid is a startup aiming to help people in Somalia to access green and renewable energy sources. Guled Ahmed knows that this can be crucial for people lives and his company has been very smart in finding innovative ways to do business fitting a market that is quite different compared to other countries.
Guled Ahmed has answered some questions for Impakter. It will be very interesting to see how Power OffGrid could be a game changer in Somalia’s sustainable development process.
Could you please share your background and the story of Power OffGrid?
Guled Ahmed: I am the Founder & CEO of Power OffGrid: we are a renewable energy start up based in USA & Somalia. It all begun while I was helping to raise funds to build & design solar pump for a farmer using sustainable irrigation system. We had difficulty raising funds and the construction schedule got delayed. We were stuck.
At that time, a farmer told me there was a lady with ten kids who couldn’t pay her electric bill and her electric bill was very expensive – something like $50 per month which is equivalent to $2/kWh. She was just using electricity for two hours of TV and ten hours of electric light.
I quickly jumped into action by designing an affordable 250 watts solar home system which can power for five hours a computer, or ten light bulbs for ten hours. It could also be used for two hours of ironing, or charging three phones, or to power the TV. The total cost for that – including the manual labor – was around $300.
After installing the system, the kids started doing their homework at night, but they could also play and watch TV. It was a quite relief for them.
I decided to conduct a quick survey to determine how much off-grid communities were spending on electricity and how many hours they had access to it. Our survey showed that the cost of electricity was between 1.5 to $2 per kilowatt hour. Utility companies were telling people it was only $0.65 cents per kilowatt, but it was not right.
I thought: if we power off grid communities, it could have a great positive impact on their life.
What are the main goals of your company?
G. A. : Power OffGrid main goal is to provide clean, accessible, affordable, customized, sustainable, off-grid electric power for urban and rural populations and reach 10,000 homes by 2030.
We want to disrupt the energy use in Somalia by introducing decentralized hybrid wind grids, bio-grids & mini grids to increase energy access both in rural and urban communities at an affordable rate.
In addition, we aim to change regulations in our country to make it more effective to move towards renewable energy models. We also aim to partner with renewable energy companies.
What services do you provide?
G. A. : Our renewable energy services includes the financing of solar home system, mini-grid, wind-grid, hybrid energy solutions. We also design & install solar systems for residential, commercial & farming.
In addition, we provide consultancy services for Governments & NGOs. We mentor and train young people and women. We are especially focused on Somalian young women inclusion as we believe renewable energy & green-tech jobs in general could help to close gender gaps.
The first woman in Somalia who designed & installed a 1000 watts solar system went through our training.
What makes Power OffGrid different compared to other companies installing solar panels?
G. A. : What makes us unique is that, we are self-funded and disruptive innovators. We are the only company in Somalia that provides renewable energy service for people living on and off the grid, including the last mile energy delivery.
Due to lack of access of financing for Nomads we have introduced for the first time in the world a system called “Goat4Kwh” basically converting their animals in a form of down payment to finance their – for instance – solar panels.
We have also introduced the first time in Somalia a solar electric vehicle for the farmers and a portable solar bucket pump with a high efficiency pump, which can be used to pump water from the river.
What kind of impact do you have on your community?
G. A. : We have transformed people’s lives with renewable energy: we have powered healthcare clinics and saved lives; we provided energy access to people; we helped farmers to become “smart” farmers.
In the cover picture: Solar Panels. Photo Credits: EEP Africa via Twitter