On a sweltering hot day in Cairo, the Dutch Embassy and the District Co-Working Space teamed up to put a spotlight on the companies that are harnessing this very sunshine – and waste the country produces in abundance – to work towards a sustainable future for a heaving population, experiencing rapid urbanization. Inspired by TedX Binnenhof, which this year gathered 12 inspirational innovators from across Europe and saw an opening speech by Dutch Minister of Agriculture Martijn van Dam calling for an exchange of ideas and inspirations, five Egyptians companies presented their innovative solutions in renewable energy.
Gas supplies in Egypt have failed to keep up with population and urban growth, resulting in the country transitioning from an exporter to an importer, with its first purchase taking place in April 2015. Meanwhile, prices for consumers have increased exponentially as the Egyptian government has begun cutting back subsidies on fuel and electricity. However, Cairo has always had a strong entrepreneurship scene and this has only increased with the advent of technology. Each tackling the energy challenges faced by Egyptians on a daily basis with a unique approach, these are five companies to keep an eye on:
Anyone who’s experienced Egyptian or Middle Eastern cuisine will tell you that oils are used in abundance. Taking that used cooking oil and converting it into a biodiesel fuel, this Cairo-based startup has managed to make over LE 2 million (approximately $225,000) last year alone thanks to its export contracts, supplying companies in Europe and Asia. As well as being created sustainably from waste products, biodiesel is far less harmful to the environment than fossil fuels – this type of fuel burns clean, which results in a significant reduction of the types of pollutants that contribute to smog and global warming and emits up to 85% fewer cancer-causing agents. In 2016, they expect to ramp up production to reach 21,000 cubic tonnes this year.
Presenting holistic solar solutions for both commercial and residential facilities, KarmSolar and its subsidiary KarmBuild, which focuses on integrating solar power and energy efficiency with architecture, prides itself in empowering businesses and people by going off-grid. Combined with their KarmPower arm, they are able to offer consulting, solar panels and related products and installation. Working mainly in rural, desert and seaside areas, their completed projects include tourism resorts, gated communities and farms. The only Egyptian company currently licensed to sell solar-generated power, KarmSolar was also awarded a patent for their solar-powered irrigation pump system which has seen great success in Egypt’s arid and energy-deprived countryside.
Founded in Cairo in 2013, SolarizEgypt has already grown and is currently operational in Oman and Sudan as well as their homeland. Pushed by the opportunities presented given Egypt’s cutback on energy subsidies, the young team designs, installs and commissions grid-connected PV solar power plants offering commercial, industrial and residential electricity consumers the option of complementing their conventional energy supply with solar power or going off-grid completely. SolarizEgypt has also been awarded a global design patent for their latest innovation which beautifies solar panels, combining them with typical red clay roofing shingles (pictured) so that a solar-powered building can still be a stylish one.
Egypt has 8.5 million cows. And while they provide for vital meat and dairy supplies, one Egyptian company is looking at their manure for sustainable energy that solves more problems than just cleaning up after the cattle. The winner of entrepreneurship reality television show El Mashrou3 (The Project), Taqa Solutions’ technology turns manure into methane gas that can be used in place of the traditional liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders that Egyptians living in rural areas rely on. Not only is the energy source sustainable and ecologically friendly, but it also allows customers to avoid the gangs notoriously ruling over LPG distribution who are often selling the cylinders for 10 times their official price. Meanwhile, Taqa Solutions has a distinct social development aspect and is working closely with the women in the village they’re piloting in, who previously had to travel for miles and lug their over-priced LPGs home. The methane gas they distribute, on the other hand, is incredibly light and packaged in balloons which are easily connected to stoves and water heaters.
A full-service smart, eco-focused solution provider, Smart Engineering Solutions’ (SES) solar skews include panels for energy back up, irrigation and heating, as well as an ingenious solution for gas stations – Egypt’s energy shortages cause notorious blackouts, which means gas stations cannot pump gas, causing traffic and even fights breaking out at neighborhood stations. Meanwhile, their energy management wing can provide clients with a holistic service, including smart automation within, with the aim of conserving energy. Furthermore, the company has been the foremost supplier of solar street lighting solutions and has strong expertise in retrofitting existing infrastructure for a sustainable future.
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