Poor energy supply is still a major obstacle for economic development in many emerging economies and developing countries. There is a direct link between poor energy supply and poverty. The International Energy Agency estimates that more than ten per cent (Source: pv magazine 2019) of the world’s population has no access to electricity. Off-grid power generation from renewable energy sources could solve this problem, especially in the rural regions of Africa that are not yet connected to the grid.
The business idea
Abdallah Khenissi says that he has a ‘pathological fixation’. He wants to supply Africans in rural regions that lack an energy infrastructure with cheap, decentralised solar power respectively solar thermal energy and to turn the desert green in the next step. He is currently attempting to achieve this first goal by building and using solar concentrators. These units use solar energy to generate high temperatures, which can then be used for a wide range of industrial and private purposes and processes. After all, heat – rather than electricity – is the most commonly used form of power. It is needed in food production for cooking, baking, drying, pasteurising and sterilising, and also in the textile industry for washing, bleaching and dyeing. And those are just two areas of many. Mr Khenissi plans to revegetate the desert by desalinating seawater, and solar concentrators would play a key role in this process, too.
The 36-year-old is convinced that the solar concentrator manufactured by his company, Water, Energy and Environment, will establish itself on the market in the long term. Solar thermal energy is regarded as the most environmentally friendly renewable energy source and it can be stored cheaply and in huge quantities. This is a major bonus, especially in the age of climate change. Hassan Dhahmen from the Association l’Oasis des Sciences has already tested Khenissi’s solar concentrators and has rented them for events. He says: ‘These solar concentrators can save the population a great deal of work in the future, because they mean you no longer have to go to the trouble of organising and carrying heavy gas cylinders, which have been the most important energy source up to now. The fact that the concentrators are produced in Tunisia and not abroad makes us proud, and it’s another good reason to use them.’