Sana`a's Solar Revolution: Solar Panels in Yemen
July 18, 2017
Sana`a, Yemen may be famous for its traditional tower houses, but since a bloody civil war engulfed Yemen in 2015, a new sight has become increasingly common on its skyline – solar panels.
Electricity supplies are down 70 percent since fighting destroyed several key power stations in the impoverished country. Many households in the capital now have power less than six hours per day. With higher fuel prices as a result of the war, private generators are simply too expensive for most people to operate. But for many Yemenis, the answer lies in the sky.
Cheap Chinese solar panels can provide a household with enough energy to operate lights, a washer, and a television each day, and they go for as little as $80 in local markets. Once they have been purchased, the electricity costs go to zero. In the two years since the conflict broke out, solar energy production in Yemen has quadrupled. Still, storm clouds are looming. In the chaos of a wartime economy, low-quality and counterfeit products have seeped into the market.
Some Yemenis have taken matters into their own hands. In 2016, a mix of public, NGO, and private actors joined together to launch the Green Pages initiative, Yemen’s first solar energy platform. Although Green Pages is not a governmental body and can neither enforce quality control nor prosecute fraudsters, it sets its own standards for products and connects customers with trusted suppliers.
Where government cannot or will not act, others are stepping in. No one wants to emulate the tragedies of Yemen, but out of those tragedies is at least one example worth considering.
This article is part of the CSIS Middle East Program series Mezze: Assorted Stories from the Middle East.