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Renewables have the potential to encourage economic development in war-torn Somalia

Array of solar panels at an installation in Africa.
Array of solar panels at an installation in Africa. Image Credit: Flickr/Coniferconifer

More than thirty years after the collapse of Somalia's national government and years into the continuing Al-Shabab insurgency, a new report indicates that one of Africa's most unstable states could see increased economic development and prosperity through the adoption of renewable energy.

Somalia is one of the least electrified countries in the world, but the development of local microgrids that rely on renewable power by the United Nations and African Union missions that are operating in the country could change things, according to the report from Energy Peace Partners.

The United Nations and African Union missions in the country are already using power for their own operations, it's just that they're relying on imported diesel. And with an energy footprint of 65 megawatts for their operations, the UN and AU missions have energy demands that are more than half of the entire nation's official energy consumption of 125 megawatts (by comparison the state of Vermont consumes 5.5 terawatts of electricity annually).

Two years ago the United Nations inked an agreement with Kube Energy, a European solar energy developer, to supply power to their operations in one region of Somalia, and the research report recommended expanding that initiative throughout the country.

"The use of PPAs to leverage new private-sector investment can be scaled for renewable-energy projects across Somalia, helping to overcome a key capacity challenge for the national electrification strategy," the study's authors write. [And] by extending the benefits of new energy access from UN missions to local communities, this strategy can support broader peace and development goals: it will reduce diesel tax revenue flowing to Al-Shabab, while supporting the numerous socioeconomic benefits associated with expanded energy access that are aligned with Somali federal and regional development plans."

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