Engineer at forefront of Eritrean energy renaissance powers villages
He uses basic maths to calculate the Watt hour consumption of a remote school and the solar energy needed to power it from his office in Asmara. Then he packs the solar panel equipment and heads off to the school to put the system in place.
He positions the solar panels which convert sunlight into electricity to the optimal position directly under the sun for maximum efficiency. And lastly, installs the control unit and deep-cycle lead-acid battery to store electricity for nightly use.
And then Russom Semere, an MSc holder in Renewable Energy of the University of Oldenburg and Electrical Engineer, jumps off the roof and flips a light switch in one of the school rooms – his Voila moment.
He relentlessly tours up and down the country to remote places – from Southern RS Kiloma to Gas Barka Tessenei; from Afhimbol, Kerkebet all the way to Senafe, Tsorona; from Maimine, Ubel, Maidima to Afabet, Zara and many other rural towns and villages – installing hundreds of solar pump systems and solar power panels for schools, health centers, private installations and communities.
The engineer might be at the forefront of a so called Eritrean energy renaissance with the National Indicative Program (NIP) cooperation between the EU and Eritrea just singed on Friday.Russom fixes a water proof solar bulb on top of the bell tower of a church – right above the cross.
The framework program of €200 million includes programs supporting Eritrea to achieve a shift in its energy policy, harnessing its rich potential of solar, wind, and geothermal energy, as well as contributing to international efforts to mitigate climate change.
Russom never gets tired traveling for hours through difficult and inaccessible terrain or working for days in extreme weather conditions. Like most scientists and engineers, Russom gets energized and rewarded by finally delivering clean drinking water to a community or electricity to schools, health centers or private houses.
“To see Women and children very happy after completing a solar water pump system that would pump clean drinking water from the rivers right to their village only few meters from their houses, the excitement expressed with their „Elellta“ was just priceless…” said Russom Semere. “To see children light up with happiness after seeing a solar lamp in their house powered from the sun for the first time in their life, is just priceless feeling of satisfaction in your heart. They could not wait for the darkness to come so that they can switch on the light and study at night with a bright light in their head! A simple light bulb that we take it for granted in the cities, plays a great role in changing the life style of a family in a village with no access to electricity. And there is nothing more rewarding than to be the one doing the job and witness the excitement.”
His first experience with solar energy was during National service at the Energy Research and Training Centre (ERTC) of the Ministry of Energy and Mines in 2000 during his first year national service.Adjusting the solar panel on building.
Inspired by the one-year experience at ERTC, he decided to study renewable energy further, and did his first Renewable energy research for his Bachelor degree final year project at Asmara University, titled “Prospects of alternative Energy Resources in Eritrea“
During his National service, he also worked part time as a solar technician and project supervisor with Phaesun Asmara for around 5 year. He spent working mainly in remote Eritrean villages and says that it was the most rewarding and happiest time of his professional career to date.
His background as in Electrical Engineering was key to his Master’s degree in Renewable Energy from the University of Oldenburg, Germany in 2010. And it was only in 2008, after several attempts to get a scholarship to study renewables energy, that he succeeded.
Encouraged by his work and deep wish to contribute to the development of rural electrification in Eritrea, he decided to dedicate his Masters degree thesis to Eritrea.
His thesis objective was to electrify Areza and a nearby village using renewable energy and his thesis title “Rural Electrification in Eritrea using renewable energy, a case study of semi-urban Areza and village Adi-Gulti”.Water pump driven by solar power.
“I did a technical, financial, and environmental analysis of electrifying the town of Areza and a village called Adi-Gulti using renewable energy during the last 6 months of my research and submitted a copy of my paper to the Ministey of Energy and Mines for their reference” said Russom. “The Ministry of National Development later signed 11 million Euro cooperation agreement with the EU to power Areza and Mai-dima with a 2.7MWp solar energy, and i feel very proud that my objective to electrify Areza has finally been implemented.”
In 2010, he joined Phaesun www.phaesun.com, a German off-grid electrical power supply company in Memmingen, as a project engineer. Since then he ran projects for Phaesun in Eritrea and African countries like Djibouti, Somaliland, Sudan, South Sudan, Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana.
He also created www.erisolar.com to promote solar energy applications and distribution in Eritrea in his spare time.
During the last 5 years, he has been travelling to Eritrea for work, mainly project follow up, customer visits and training – and of course family visits.
His last trip was in February 2015 to follow up EU funded projects to power more than 300 community courts with solar energy, and train more than 36 youth from the Ministry of Justice on the application of solar energy from all the zobas.
Personal note – Russom Semere:
I studied in Eritrea for 17 years, and gained tremendous knowledge for free. I am who I am today because of the investment my country and my society invested on me. Not only in education, but also the good culture and values of hard work, respect, and humbleness I learned from my society. I wouldn’t have imagined to have completed technical school let alone 5 years engineering degree program if I had to pay for it. And therefore I feel it is my duty to pay back to my Eritrean society in any way I can.