11 Oct 2021
Beirut, Lebanon
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

More than most, Hasan Jaafar knows that Lebanon desperately needs to adopt more sustainable energy production. Jaafar spent three years as a technical expert at two state-run power plants, both of which rely on burning harmful fuel-oil. He then switched jobs to an exploratory drilling project for natural gas, after which he had seen enough. “I realized that hydrocarbons will not solve Lebanon’s problems — in the short-term or the long-term.”

Jaafar left the fossil fuel industry and co-founded YY ReGen, a start-up focused on reducing the carbon footprint of Lebanese agriculture. YY ReGen’s other co-founders, Amer Khayyat and Nadine Haddad, are working with Jaafar to make renewable energy more accessible and affordable to farmers. “We have a shared commitment to restoring Lebanon to its rightful place as the Middle East’s bountiful bread basket,” Jaafar said.

In the Eastern Mediterranean, Lebanon should be a regional leader in agricultural production. The tiny country boasts a wide range of high-quality produce — from strawberries grown on mountaintops to bananas cultivated in the south — which could nourish more people locally and internationally.

Unfortunately, Lebanon’s agricultural sector has run unsustainably and inefficiently for decades. Outdated farming techniques have depleted soil quality and polluted groundwater reserves, while farmers themselves receive minimal profits for their hard work. 

Now Lebanon’s unprecedented economic crisis has made this antiquated business model completely untenable. Many farmers can no longer afford imported diesel to run their agricultural machinery; imported inputs, like seeds, have also become prohibitively expensive.

YY ReGen has started directly tackling these challenges. One of the company’s specific projects, ReGen-R8, aims to provide a one-stop shop for Lebanese farmers to buy on-demand renewable energy. A mobile app will allow users to request power for their farms as required, and then pay when they have access to funds, such as after harvesting.

Crucially, Jaafar notes that the economic crisis has driven farmers to seek out renewable energy providers like YY ReGen. “Our solutions are no longer ‘nice-to-haves,’ but critically needed if Lebanese agriculture is to survive and thrive.”

According to Jaafar, YY ReGen benefits from the co-founders’ complementary skill-sets. Amer Khayyat, YY ReGen’s chief executive officer and a mechanical engineer, has over 20 years of experience in the commercial energy sector. Khayyat added the technical expertise of Jaafar and Nadine Haddad, an agricultural engineer, to handle both primary production and renewable energy.

The founders started out by contributing their own funds, not to mention their unpaid time and effort, to get the company up and running. YY ReGen has now completed its initial design and component testing phases, placing the business in a position to attract investment from abroad, especially in the Lebanese diaspora.

Jaafar claims that these exploratory steps have confirmed that the project is commercially viable. This assurance should boost YY ReGen’s prospects of receiving future contributions from grants and private investors.

The team can also entice investors by showing industry recognition for YY ReGen’s business concept. This year, YY ReGen won the 2021 Cleanergy e-Hackathon from a list of 99 applicants and nine finalists. YY ReGen’s triumph gave the startup immediate access to the Cleanergy Accelerator Project, which is run by Lebanese SME incubator Berytech.

Beyond investors, YY ReGen views a role for all Lebanese to play in securing a greener future for their country. “[A green transition is] a huge challenge, especially in Lebanon, where huge obstacles occur,” said Jaafar. “Everyone needs to eat though, so reducing food loss and investing in sustainable production … can make a difference.”


Learn more about YY ReGen through the website, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of YY ReGen

David Wood is a freelance writer and researcher based in Beirut. He previously worked in Cairo.David Wood
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YY ReGen Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency