September 2018 — Following years of living and working in Germany, Fadil Hoxha returned to his homeland of Kosovo in 1999 after the country’s devastating war.
“The economy was not functioning at the time, and everything had to start from zero,” he said.
Seeing a clear business opportunity, Hoxha started importing drilling machinery to produce the raw materials needed for post-war reconstruction. After spending time abroad, Hoxha was eager to do something good for his country. But when the time came to pay his electric bill, he received a real shock.
“The electricity price was so high that I was forced to go and consult with [the electricity company] to see if it was a mistake. In fact, it was not a mistake.”
Over the past several years, energy costs in Kosovo have been rising, and power outages have become routine as the country relies on aging coal-fired power plants — and highly polluting, non-renewable lignite coal reserves.
An expensive electricity bill did the trick to spur Hoxha to provide an alternative form of energy. “I was home with my son, and I said to him that we will be the first ones to open the first solar company,” he said.
True to his word, in 2015, Hoxha and his business partners drew up a plan, and within 10 days, they had bought a factory and started preparations for Kosovo’s first photovoltaic solar panel production company, Jaha Solar.
Before Jaha Solar could start selling its solar panels, however, it needed to obtain product certifications to assure buyers that its panels were high quality. Looking for a reliable and honest partner, Hoxha turned to USAID’s EMPOWER Private Sector project, which aims to create jobs in Kosovo by helping businesses identify and pursue opportunities for growth. USAID provided co-financing to Jaha Solar to obtain 14 product certifications. With these certifications, Jaha Solar can sell its solar panels in Kosovo and abroad.
Jaha Solar debuted its products at Kosovo’s first-ever Green Festival in May 2016 sponsored by USAID. At the festival, Hoxha and other Jaha Solar representatives presented their products to hundreds of attendees, including other green businesses, which paved the road to further partnership in promoting and raising awareness of renewable energy in Kosovo.
More recently, Jaha began working with the Solar Roofs Project, a pilot project financed by USAID to install photovoltaic solar panels at small businesses and residences in rural areas. Small businesses currently pay the highest electricity rates in Kosovo, and households in rural areas experience the most power outages. By installing these panels, USAID and Jaha Solar are stimulating interest in solar energy as an inexpensive and reliable power source. The two partners subsidize 30 percent of the price per kilowatt, while beneficiaries cover the rest.
Because Jaha Solar is the region’s only producer of photovoltaic solar panels, demand for its products is increasing in European Union countries, the Western Balkans and beyond. The company exports to Macedonia, Turkey, Iran and Burkina Faso and, earlier this year, signed two contracts with large firms in Montenegro.
This demand will serve Hoxha well as he continues to champion solar energy in Kosovo and work toward a better future for his country. His timing could not be better as Kosovo and its neighbors recently committed to using renewable sources, including wind and hydro in addition to solar power, for 20 percent of their energy needs in the coming years. To assist the country in reaching this goal, the USAID project, which began in 2014, has helped create 300 jobs in the energy sector in Kosovo to date.
The five-year EMPOWER Private Sector project has assisted nearly 370 Kosovo businesses to expand their production and sales. By fostering and encouraging growth opportunities, USAID has stimulated $83.8 million in sales among its beneficiary companies and helped create nearly 3,000 new jobs since 2015.