Egypt has an energy problem-that much we all know-especially as we now seem to be getting ten months of summer and sun. So why not invest in the technology to harness the ever present sun for energy? While the infrastructure might not be completely established, we have the ability to change things bit by bit. Meaning, we can take matters into our own hands by making our new homes dependent on solar energy, raising awareness about it and telling people how to get it.
SolarizEgypt is a company whose aim is to make solar energy more accessible and affordable to both personal homeowners and commercial entities by offering cost effective solar solutions that are cheaper than other energy sources. While focused on Egypt, Solarize wants to take on the rest of this sunny region, too.
In 2013, SolarizEgypt’s co-founders Yaseen Abdel Ghaffar and Rana Alaa noticed the same thing we all do: we can do so much with all that sun. Working for oil and gas companies at the time, they decided to provide an alternative energy source for Egypt. Abdel Ghaffar tells us, “we decided we were sick of seeing Egypt’s resources go to waste”. Without further ado, Solarize was born. Although it wasn’t easy quitting high-paying jobs in the oil sector, explaining to people why investing in something like SolarizEgypt was actually a smart thing to do or facing the rejection of their proposal 151 times, Abdel Ghaffar and Alaa continued on.
Because at The Daily Crisp this is a cause close to our hearts, we wanted to know just how feasible getting solar energy really is, what the challenges are in doing that and how we can go about in making the most of all the sun we get. We talked to SolarizEgypt, one of the leading solar energy providers in Egypt and started by asking the question that’s on all our minds: Why isn’t Egypt doing anything with the enormous solar energy potential it has, and what would it take to do that?
Abdel Ghaffar told us that the most basic problem is the need for so much initial capital to invest in solar energy because it’s like buying 25 years worth of electricity up front. Despite this initial cost, solar energy is cheaper than energy from the grid in the long run. Solar energy systems can produce power at 36 piasters per kWh that is equivalent to the 80 piasters you pay at a villa.
Abdel Ghaffar continues, “That is exactly why we at Solarize believe the key to making solar prevalent is including the banking sector in a way where solar is purchased using a loan over 7-10 years. In fact we are working towards a ‘freemium’ model; where we install your system free of charge and you pay for it from the savings it makes – free solar!” He also emphasizes the need for strategic alliances with residential developers who see solar powered systems as part of the house from the very beginning.
Abdel Ghaffar shared that it will soon become a lot more feasible and convenient as the government removes energy subsidies and electricity goes up by a rate of almost 10% a year. On the other hand, he explains, installing solar panels is like paying for 5.5 years and getting 20 years for free! The problem is not a lot of people are aware of these facts. Did you know you can install solar panels at your home AND sell the extra power they generate to the government for money? 70% of people don’t know that either, according to Solarize’s studies. Abdel Ghaffar says awareness is the first step towards making solar energy more prevalent. This is why Solarize uses almost all of its marketing budget on awareness and information sessions. Their website features a “Go Solar” widget that informs people of the best system for their needs, how much they will pay for it and how much they will save from it.
The point for Solarize, according to Abdel Ghaffar, is not “taking market share; it’s about creating the market”. It’s about making more people go solar.
While dependency on solar energy on a large scale is still not immediately attainable because of a lack of participation, Abdel Ghaffar thinks we’re not that far off, especially as the cost of electricity keeps increasing. He also reiterates that it would have to be in the interest of large industries like banks and real estate firms, so they can put their weight behind it, spread it and raise awareness about it.
For Abdel Ghaffar, though, this is all just within reach: “The good news is it’s just a matter of time”. We believe that, too, and hope that everyone can start switching to solar, even in small ways. Every small shift is a step forward in the right direction.