09 Oct 2017
Tulkarm, Palestine
Renewable energy and energy efficiency

The renewable energy sector in Palestine looks very different today than it did in 2008 when Abdelnaser Dwaikat was first approached about starting one of the country’s first solar companies. Two years later, Dwaikat — still a recent mechanical engineering graduate — teamed up with Eng. Ahmad Shawareb to co-found Msader. Almost a decade into operations, Msader is one of the largest solar companies in Palestine, with the company reporting they have more than 50% of the country’s market share.

The need for a renewable source of energy is particularly acute in Palestine — electricity costs in the country are substantially higher than in other parts of the region. In fact, the Palestine Solar Industry Association (PSIA) estimates 10% of the average household income is dedicated towards electrical costs, versus 2% in countries such as Jordan and Lebanon. Part of that is due to the origin of electricity — 95% of which comes from Israel — and poor grid infrastructure means more than a quarter of energy is lost in transit to its final destination.

“We are looking to minimize this dependency that we have on Israel for energy,” says Dwaikat. “Palestine needs an additional means of energy, and solar is the easiest. Anyone can take away or limit natural resources, but no one can stop the sun from rising every morning.”

Solar solutions of all types and sizes:

One way Msader is increasing the proliferation of Palestine’s solar sector is by working on many varied projects. The company’s installations can be found everywhere, from individuals’ homes to private businesses to huge solar fields constructed for the national electrical company. Msader is also installing solar systems in 83 schools across the West Bank, and at Hebron University.

Dwaikat says the growth has happened gradually. “We started first with one kilowatt (kW), and two kW projects — now we have the biggest project in the region where we will be producing 25 megawatt (mW) for one private sector company,” explains Dwaikat of Msader’s growth.

While the 25 mW project is still in the planning stages, Msader has already been recognized for two large contributions: its 710 kW project in the Dead Sea and another 1.6 mW photovoltaic station near Jericho. Dwaikat says those projects provide electricity for thousands of families in the West Bank.

The electricity from these larger projects, and 80% of Msader’s other installations, is sold to the Palestine Electric Company and stored in the national grid. The remaining 20% of electricity produced goes towards powering off-grid projects — households and businesses found in remote, low-density areas too rural to have access to the grid.

One of the greatest boosts to Msader’s success has been its ability to find financing, says Fadi Bkirat, a representative from PSIA. “We don’t have any green loans or financing in Palestine, so you need shareholders and private companies with money,” he says of Msader’s success. “Everyone needs the electricity, but it’s hard to find leasing, especially for housing projects and small and medium sized businesses.”

Bkirat predicts that with appropriate financing mechanisms from government and the private sector, solar companies could produce 10% of the electricity required by Palestinian households and businesses within the next four years — up from its current 1.5%.

The Palestinian solar company eyeing regional growth | The Switchers
The Palestinian solar company eyeing regional growth | The Switchers

Solar supplier for the region:

The financing helps Msader take on another role that can be difficult for solar companies in Palestine: importing solar systems.

In addition to overseeing the installation of solar systems, Msader imports top quality equipment from Germany and China which they sell to individual consumers and other solar companies. Msader is the authorized dealer for KACO and SMA, two German companies that produce inverters, and the company also imports Trina Solar panels, recognized as some of the top panels in the world.

In addition to panels and inverters, Msader also imports and installs solar thermal heating units. Thermal heating is a popular form of heat production in Palestine, with more than half of homes using solar heaters.

Importing these materials is key, as Palestine is not able to produce any equipment in-country. While Israeli control of the border, seaport, and airport slow the importation of materials, Dwaikat says Msader usually receives their orders in about one to two weeks — a far cry from the next day delivery for Israeli companies.

The Palestinian solar company eyeing regional growth | The Switchers

Building knowledge among community and staff:

Dwaikat and his team recognize that the growth of the solar sector can be limited by people’s understanding of its potential. As such, Msader Academy was born. The academy is the educational arm of the company that offers training for university students and members of the public through local chambers of commerce. The academy is also responsible for training all customers, prospective and current, about the benefits of bringing solar energy into their homes and businesses.

According to Dwaikat, the academy never starts with a sales pitch. “We first spread public awareness about the environment, our health, and the pollution caused by energy requiring fossil fuels,” Dwaikat explains. “We teach people how to use energy efficiently so they can minimize their electricity bill.” Once people understand that smart consumption can save money, Dwaikat’s team introduces the solar aspect. “We convince them that if they get their power from the sun, they can further minimize their footprint and increase the use of renewable natural resources.” This, combined with the cut cost of electricity, is usually enough to get customers on board.

Investing time to build community understanding is just one educational element of Msader. The company is also interested in increasing the knowledge and skills of its 20 employees.

“Our skillful and trained staff are one of our unique advantages,” notes Dwaikat, adding that team members are regularly sent to Germany, Dubai, Japan, and other international locations for training. One is even having her master’s degree covered by Msader. “If you invest in your staff, they feel like they are a partner, and they don’t just do their job and go home. This helps them feel more responsibility and accountability, and reflects in the quality of work they give our customers.”

It is this team of skilled employees that will help Msader reach its next goal: become the leader for the solar sector in Palestine and expand the business to reach all parts of the country — and perhaps other areas in the region, too.

Website: www.msader.ps

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Msader.Co

Photos: Courtesy of Msader

 

Hilary is a journalist, photographer, and maker of things. She loves working with entrepreneurs to share their stories and has done so around the world.Hilary Duff
The Palestinian solar company eyeing regional growth | The Switchers
Msader Renewable energy & energy effiency
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