February 25, 2020

Kaptain Sunshine Shines His Light

Yosef Abramowitz, the larger-than-life CEO of Israel’s Energiya Global, has been called many things: entrepreneur, activist, environmentalist, ambassador, prophet, futurist, authority, rebel, crazy. However, there is one moniker that all can agree on: Kaptain Sunshine (also his Twitter handle). A fitting name for the man leading the Jewish, and in some ways, global, charge to make the world a brighter place, both literally and figuratively.

Abramowitz is a leading figure in the solar energy revolution. At the helm of the multimillion dollar Energiya Global, a Jerusalem-based green energy developer focusing on building solar fields in Africa, Abramowitz tends to operate in some of the most remote places on the planet. Energiya Global projects are currently in various stages throughout more than 10 African countries, from Burundi to South Sudan.

Africa has more than 600 million people without access to electricity. It also has, as Abramowitz loves to point out, 11 of the 20 fastest-growing economies in the world. Where others see only challenges, he sees massive potential.

Energiya Global is first and foremost a private company seeking to generate profits, so there is, of course, the financial bottom line. Additionally, the company produces tremendous humanitarian, environmental and geopolitical game-changing results with each field it builds. Full of examples, Abramowitz is at his best when he is revved up about the snowball effect of solar power on all aspects of society. The reduction in gender-based violence when a local food market is lit at night. The predominance of diesel engines in Africa killing millions each year with toxic fumes. The support in the United Nations by African nations buoyed by Israeli technology.

Like the early Zionist leaders whom he so admires, Abramowitz is a man of action. In 2011, after moving to Kibbutz Ketura (near Eilat) with his family from the Boston area, he successfully built the first solar field in the Middle East. Despite the myriad of obstacles throughout the years, this pioneering project which will reach its full capacity in 2020, fulfilling its promise to power the entire Arava region by 100 percent solar energy during the day.

“My becoming an environmental activist isn’t because I am necessarily ‘green.’ It is because I am a human and a creation of God.” — Yosef Abramowitz

His success can be attributed to his comfort with risk, something he holds as a core Jewish value. He said, “Our work now of bringing solar to Africa via Energiya Global is largely about the art and science of risk mitigation.”

It is also a result of a lot of chutzpah, or as Abramowitz said, “pushing the boundaries of what is possible.” He reflected: “One of the great cultural features of Israel as Startup Nation is that so many people are celebrated for trying innovating, experimenting and dreaming.”

Deeply rooted in Abramowitz’s every action is a deep faith and respect for the Jewish tradition. “My becoming an environmental activist isn’t because I am necessarily ‘green,’ ” he said. “It is because I am a human and a creation of God.”

It is this perspective that helps him inspire so many around the globe, not just those who are friendly to the environmental movement or proponents of renewable energy. He reframes the imperative to change our polluting and wasteful ways from that of an environmental perspective to that of a human perspective.

“Perhaps we should be emphasizing, instead, the teaching that we are all created in God’s image and therefore must take actions immediately to reduce our moral culpability on the effects of climate change.”