Andrew Amadi: This is what it will take to create a sustainable future
What you need to know:
- Africa produces less than two per cent of global emissions. Even if we switched to renewable energy by 100 per cent and planted trees on the entire continent, it may not have a real impact.
- However, if we choose a direction of development that has a high carbon footprint, it will have a huge impact.
- That is why adaptation is important. The reason why people do not have food in the semi-arid regions of Kenya is that there is no water.
Andrew Amadi is a chemical and process engineer and a certified energy manager. He has over 15 years of experience in the energy sector. For the last 10 years, he has worked as an expert exclusively in environment, renewable energy and energy efficiency related sectors.
His work includes the carrying out of energy audits, setting an Energy Service Company (ESCOs), development and implementation of energy efficiency projects using the performance based contract approach, measurement and verification (M&V) of energy savings and the development of sustainable energy policies for public and private sectors.
He holds a BSc in chemical engineering from the Lomonosov Moscow State Academy of Fine Chemical Technology (MITHT).
Do you have a typical work day or week? What does it look like?
On a typical week, my work revolves around corporate governance, strategic planning, advocacy, and fundraising. I diarise all my engagements religiously, and this guides the number of meetings I attend, and what I prioritise on my calendar. The bottom line is that everything I do must be aligned to the productive use of renewable energy for food security.
What attracted you to work in the renewable energy sector?
The price of petrol. When I was in high school many years ago, the gulf war broke out and the price of petrol shot up. I asked myself, "Is there an alternative to petrol?" "Can you make petrol from something that we have in abundance?" I thought of grass. That became my science congress project. The research led me to meet a chemical engineer, who explained how to do it. That was where I got the interest to study chemical engineering. I worked in the petroleum sector, and I did some work in the environment within the petroleum sector, which led me to renewable energy. Since 2007, I have worked exclusively in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
In what ways does your organisation work towards adaptation of climate change solutions?
Africa produces less than two per cent of global emissions. Even if we switched to renewable energy by 100 per cent and planted trees on the entire continent, it may not have a real impact. However, if we choose a direction of development that has a high carbon footprint, it will have a huge impact. That is why adaptation is important. The reason why people do not have food in the semi-arid regions of Kenya is that there is no water. We need solar to pump water for adaptation, not so much mitigation. In 40 years, our impact on climate change will have become significant as we develop further as a continent. That is why mitigation is important.
What are the challenges of advocating for the adoption of renewable energy practices in Kenya?
The first challenge is that there are few experts in this area, which leads to knowledge gap between the public and the experts. Experts talk to each other and not to the public. When they talk to the public they talk at the public. It gets people fatigued.
The second challenge is that renewable energy has been driven from an environmental angle. Many Kenyans do not care about the environment, they care about the economy. It is both a policy and an individual issue. The environment is not the premium. In order to engage, we need to have an economic conversation. We need to talk about business opportunities.
What is the role of an ordinary young person in mitigating climate change effects?
Ask the right questions. Why is our electricity so expensive? Why can't you afford cheap solar? When you do that you trigger demand and investment can follow. People invest when they see demand. With investment, jobs are also created.
What do you think are some of the most misunderstood issues around climate change by decision makers?
The first misrepresentation is that Africa needs to use coal to industrialise or develop. Kenya, the largest economy in East Africa, runs on geothermal energy. Kenya's economy is also diversified – we don’t only rely on fuel. If we switch our industrial fuel and start using a sustainable source, we will start running fully on renewable energy.
The second is that when we use electric vehicles and charge them, we are still polluting the environment because we are using fossil fuels. To some extent it is true, but we will have reduced the carbon emission.
The third is that we have time. We don't. Social and behavioral change will take time but we are behind the clock. We ought to have done so much more based on the projections.
How would you say your higher education prepared you for your current role?
Education gave me the foundation. I know what formula to use. I make money by applying the knowledge I learned in school.
What qualities are important for a young person who wants to excel in this field?
If you have the right attitude, interest and authenticity, it does not matter what your interest is, you will excel in what you are interested in. Don't do what everyone is doing, that is already taken. Do what you are best at. Additionally, get somebody to mentor you. Whatever you are going through, someone else has been there so do not repeat old mistakes. Get someone to teach you the ropes.
Does KEREA offer internship or volunteer opportunities for recent graduates?
There are volunteer opportunities. Visit Yakazi.com and sign up. Once you become a member, it is easy to learn about opportunities since you will get connected to people with like minds, and you will also get access to training and mentorship.