In the heart of Egypt’s picturesque province of Fayyoum, a 62-year-old retiree named Mohamed Zaki Makhlouf, living with his extended family of eleven members, took a significant step toward embracing a more sustainable future. This transformation came in the form of a locally manufactured solar water heater, courtesy of Shamsina, an innovative startup social enterprise. Shamsina’s mission is to empower households like Makhlouf’s by providing them with access to a direct source of hot water through environmentally friendly means. Let’s delve into the narrative of how Shamsina is revolutionizing Egypt’s energy landscape, one rooftop at a time.
Meet Mohamed Zaki Makhlouf
In the charming landscapes of an Egyptian village in Fayyoum, resides Mohamed Zaki Makhlouf and his family of eleven. A retiree with a household income of EGP 5500 (almost $178) per month, he, like many Egyptians, relied on gas tanks to heat their water. But change was on the horizon when Shamsina extended its hand to Makhlouf, offering him a locally manufactured solar water heater that could potentially alter the way his family accessed hot water.
The Shamsina Initiative
Shamsina, which translates to “Our Sun” in Arabic, is far more than just a business venture. It’s a social enterprise with a clear mission: to enhance the quality of life for targeted households. By minimizing the time and costs associated with heating water, Shamsina is not only offering an eco-friendly alternative but is also contributing to healthier and safer living conditions. Let’s dive into the journey that led to the establishment of this groundbreaking initiative.
The Solar Water Heater Revolution
A Tangible Improvement
For Makhlouf and his family, the prospect of having a solar water heater installed was a game-changer. The simplicity of the solution and the potential benefits it could bring made the decision to embrace the change an easy one. In Makhlouf’s own words, “There is no harm in doing such a thing neither to me nor to others. So why not do it?”
A Healthier, Safer Alternative
Sara Mousa, the co-founder and CEO of Shamsina, is the visionary behind this transformative initiative. An Egyptian American with a deep-rooted connection to the country, Mousa recognized the challenges faced by poor households relying on manual methods for water heating. This realization fueled her determination to create a solution that not only alleviated these challenges but also reduced health risks and environmental impact.
Founding Story: Sara Mousa
The Spark of Inspiration
Sara Mousa’s journey towards founding Shamsina is a testament to the power of personal experiences and empathy. Growing up in the United States but regularly visiting Egypt, Mousa was exposed to the daily struggles faced by marginalized communities. After completing her studies, she returned to Egypt and embarked on a mission to make a difference in these neighborhoods.
Bridging Gaps in Poor Neighborhoods
During her volunteering efforts in low-income neighborhoods, Mousa discovered a prevalent issue: the widespread use of manual water heating methods. This revelation ignited a spark within her, prompting her to explore the extent of the problem at a national level. The data she unearthed revealed that manual heating methods were a common practice across around half of Egyptian households.
Addressing Manual Heating Methods
National Data Insights
The prevalence of manual heating methods wasn’t just an isolated issue; it was a systemic challenge affecting millions of households across Egypt. This manual approach not only inconvenienced families but also carried significant health and environmental consequences. The need for an alternative solution became increasingly evident, especially considering the adverse effects on indoor air quality.
The Air Quality Quandary
Manual heating methods often led to poor indoor air quality, exacerbating health issues and increasing the risk of burns. In a household where hot water is required multiple times a day, the continuous use of gas tanks created an unnecessary health hazard. Mousa recognized that tackling this issue wasn’t just about convenience; it was about safeguarding the well-being of families.
Environmental Impact and Emission Reduction
Small Steps, Big Impact
While the reduction of CO2 emissions by a single household might seem insignificant, the cumulative effect across millions of households is substantial. Shamsina’s approach to addressing this issue is founded on the understanding that even seemingly small changes, when scaled up, can lead to meaningful reductions in carbon emissions. By replacing traditional heating methods with solar alternatives, Shamsina is taking tangible steps towards a greener Egypt.
Cutting CO2 Emissions Through Solar Adoption
Each household that switches from gas tanks to a solar water heater contributes to the reduction of emissions by 5 kilograms every month. While this might appear modest, the ripple effect of this reduction, when applied to the millions of households in Egypt, paints a compelling picture. Shamsina’s efforts align with Egypt’s broader commitment to reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and embracing renewable energy sources.
Household Struggles: Sabah Nabil’s Story
Winter Water Heating Woes
For Sabah Nabil, Makhlouf’s daughter-in-law, the winter months meant a constant struggle to heat water manually. The inconvenience was further compounded by her mother-in-law’s need for hot water before prayers, necessitating multiple heating cycles each day. Nabil’s experience underscores the practical challenges faced by households that rely on traditional heating methods, especially during colder seasons.
Financial Burden of Gas Cylinders
Heating water through gas tanks in the winter months came at a cost – a cost that amounted to up to ten percent of the monthly income for Makhlouf’s family. This financial strain was not unique to them; countless households across Egypt faced similar challenges. The reliance on heavily subsidized gas cylinders placed additional pressure on Egypt’s already constrained finances.
Energy Economics and National Subsidies
Butane Cylinder Dependency
In Egypt, a significant portion of households depended on butane cylinders for heating water due to the lack of access to low-cost, grid-connected natural gas. However, this dependency came with its own set of challenges, both financially and environmentally. The prevalence of butane cylinders painted a clear picture of the necessity for more sustainable alternatives.
Strain on Egypt’s Finances
The subsidization of gas cylinders placed a financial burden on Egypt’s economy. With a substantial portion of the government’s budget allocated to these subsidies, the country’s finances faced significant strain. The economic impact of importing and subsidizing gas tanks was further exacerbated by global oil price fluctuations and foreign currency challenges.
Egypt’s Renewable Energy Vision
Solar Energy’s Potential
Egypt’s geographic location places it in a prime position to harness solar energy. With an abundance of sunshine, the country is poised to transition towards renewable energy sources. Egypt’s Vision 2030 outlines ambitious goals for the utilization of renewable energy, including solar, hydro, and wind power, aiming to generate 42% of its energy needs from these sources by 2030.
Egypt’s Transition to Renewable Sources
The adoption of renewable energy sources aligns with Egypt’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and embracing a sustainable energy future. The nation’s role as the host of the 2022 UN summit on climate change reflects its dedication to global environmental efforts. Solar energy emerges as a pivotal player in this transition, offering an opportunity to alleviate pressure on the country’s finances while reducing its carbon footprint.
Shamsina’s Innovations and Business Model
A Hybrid Approach
Shamsina’s strategy revolves around a hybrid business model. This model not only allows the organization to offer subsidized solar water heaters to lower-income households but also taps into higher-end markets to generate funds for these initiatives. By catering to a diverse range of consumers, Shamsina creates a symbiotic relationship that fuels its mission while ensuring financial sustainability.
Designing Affordable Water Heaters
Shamsina’s commitment to providing affordable solutions is evident in its product design. The company’s local research and development efforts, coupled with the use of locally sourced components, enable them to offer a solar water heater at a price point nearly half that of imported alternatives. This accessibility opens the door for broader adoption and impact.
Engineering Insight: Omar Abdelaziz
The Role of Solar Water Heaters
Omar Abdelaziz, an engineering professor at the American University in Cairo, provides valuable insights into the potential of solar water heaters. While acknowledging that they might not entirely replace conventional heaters, especially in densely populated urban areas, he emphasizes their value as a crucial element in Egypt’s energy generation strategy. Solar water heaters offer empowerment and access to hot water where it was once lacking.
Balancing Energy Generation and Empowerment
Abdelaziz sees solar water heaters as a vehicle for empowerment, enabling access to hot water in areas that previously lacked this privilege. While their market share might not exceed 30%, their impact on overall energy consumption and greenhouse gas reduction is significant. In Egypt’s pursuit of emission reduction goals, every step towards a greener future matters.
A Step Towards a Greener Egypt
Shamsina’s journey from conceptualization to implementation underscores the potential for startups to drive positive change. With a vision rooted in enhancing the well-being of households, Shamsina addresses both immediate challenges and long-term environmental goals. By providing affordable and sustainable solutions, the organization is contributing to a greener Egypt and a more sustainable future.
A Collective Effort to Reduce Greenhouse Gases
As Egypt strives to achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from energy industries, initiatives like Shamsina play a pivotal role. Every household that transitions from traditional heating methods to solar water heaters contributes to this collective effort. Through innovation, collaboration, and determination, Egypt’s transition to renewable energy becomes more tangible and achievable.
In the heart of an Egyptian village, Mohamed Zaki Makhlouf’s decision to embrace a locally manufactured solar water heater symbolizes a larger movement towards sustainability and empowerment. Shamsina’s initiative encapsulates the power of innovation, empathy, and technology to reshape energy landscapes. As Egypt’s Vision 2030 unfolds, the journey towards a greener future gains momentum. Through solar energy and initiatives like Shamsina, Egypt takes steps towards a more sustainable and prosperous tomorrow.