Terra Energy
I was fortunate to get the opportunity to attend the COP27 which was held in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt from 6 to 18 November. Many thanks to RES4Africa Foundation for the kind invitation and generous support. Below are my thoughts and reflections after attending my first COP:
  • This was my first COP! I tried to make it a learning experience – to listen and observe more and to talk less. It was really nice seeing so many African countries like Chad, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Zambia with vibrant pavilions and so many interesting sessions on climate adaptation, renewable energy, water, and many more topics.
  • COPs are unique because you get to meet pretty much everyone doing anything “cool” in the energy and environment fields, from governments to NGOs, the private sector, philanthropies, and civil society.
  • COP27 was unique for me since I had the opportunity to moderate the RES4Africa Foundation RES4Youth event on: “Youth Empowerment for Driving African Energy Transition” co-organized with the UN Climate Change. The event witnessed participation from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Intl. Cooperation, the European Investment Bank (EIB)Salvatore Bernabei from Enel Green PowerGiuliana Griffi from RES4Africa FoundationFouad Zayed from Schneider ElectricKhalid Salmi from Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE), and Norah Magero. I also introduced the winners of the Young Talent of the Year 2022 Award – Grace NantezaDivin Koueba, and Chiemela Anosike
  • This was an important COP due to the agreement on a “loss and damage” fund for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters. Read Vinay Shandal‘s amazing remarks on this fund here.
  • I had the opportunity to attend a side event hosted by BloombergNEF on the launch of their Climatescope 2022! I have been reading BNEF’s reports for more than 5 years and hence it was really cool to actually meet the people behind this amazing project. Just a few months ago, I provided some insights to Climatescope team on Sudan’s renewables market. Many thanks, Luiza Demôro for the kind invitation and congratulations on this achievement. You can access climatescope here.
  • COPs are a great platform for some really powerful networking! If you are a young consultant or an entrepreneur, such events are extremely important. Pack your business cards and come ready with a clear objective.
  • What I noticed in this COP is the strong presence of so many philanthropies and funding organizations. We often talk about finance as a barrier to the energy transition in Africa. Is that really the case? Or is it that we have a problem in the investment readiness of the private sector and the enabling environment?
  • A lot of the sessions I attended were talking about one very important enabler for the sustainable energy transition: business model innovation! Personally, I want to study this more. Business model innovation is particularly important given the complexity of the energy transition and the strong interlink or nexus between energy, water, and food.
  • Everyone was talking about climate finance! In one session I attended which was hosted by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), there was a lot of emphasis on blended finance and the nexus between energy and development. There were also many interesting discussions on voluntary carbon markets.
At the end of this experience, I have 4 reflections for a prosperous Africa (written from my perspective as a renewable energy engineer):
  • African youth must take the lead and we (as the youth) need to embrace the urgency of taking action.
  • Youth action can mean so many things – for some, it means climate activism and for others, it can mean innovation or research or engineering or training. My message to the youth: work hard to figure out what you are good at and simply do it, consistently for a long period!
  • Youth action needs focus which is tough – as Steve Jobs said” “focusing is hard, because it means saying “NO” to so many things, so that you can work on a few things a do them very well”.
  • As Africans, we need to work harder to develop our energy infrastructure to enable socio-economic development. This is a priority! Renewables are a key element here, but, they are not enough. We need to sustainably capitalize on all our energy resources, including natural gas.
  • Energy generation alone is not enough to address our energy problems! Developing a resilient and flexible power system is one of the main enablers for the high penetration of renewables and also for regional power trade (which can save us a lot of money!). More research and discussions are needed in this area.
  • As an African, I think that one of the main elements of our climate agenda is climate adaptation, especially through climate-resilient infrastructure. Extreme weather events, floods, and droughts have already become a reality in many African countries!
  • As Africans, we need to think about building sustainable regional and international partnerships that are aligned with our energy and climate agendas. Within Africa itself, there are some countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Gabon, and Rwanda doing amazing work in climate finance, carbon markets, renewable energy, and e-mobility. We can learn so much from each other!

Mohamed Alhaj

Dr. Mohamed Alhaj is a young energy leader, a competent sustainable energy consultant, and an expert researcher. He is the founder and managing director of Terra Energy - a Rwanda-based clean energy consulting firm.

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