Jeremiah Thoronka

Sierra Leone

Jeremiah  Thoronka

Jeremiah was born during the Sierra Leone civil war and grew up in a camp for displaced people, where firewood and charcoal were the only energy sources available for lighting and cooking. As a result, photochemical smog – a harmful consequence of burning coal – caused air pollution and respiratory problems among his peers. It was this situation that turned Jeremiah into an enthusiast and advocate for renewable energy and climate change. 

Today, Jeremiah is an experienced renewable energy entrepreneur and scholar, determined to make a significant contribution to renewable energy development and help create a secure energy future in Africa. He has used his skills to develop Optim Energy, an innovative piezoelectric device that harnesses energy from heat, vibrations and weather (all of which naturally occur in the environment) to create affordable and clean power in local communities. Recently, Optim Energy has grown into a larger initiative aiming to shrink greenhouse gas emissions, educate citizens about energy efficiency, and build a sustainable energy sector in Sierra Leone. To date, it has powered 150 households and 15 schools (made up of 9000 students) free of charge. In 2019, the local community grid in the rural area where Jeremiah operates experienced a 5% improvement in energy access (3% more than the average for the country) – and in 2020, Optim Energy was selected among 98 leading energy startups listed by the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth.  

As an author, Jeremiah has published articles on climate change, global warming, policy development, youth involvement, entrepreneurship, and renewable financing. He has presented research papers and organised workshops at some of the world's largest youth gatherings, such as the World Youth Forum and IRENA Innovation Week. He has also helped his community by volunteering to teach street children and helping 90% pass the National Primary School Examination. During his time studying in Rwanda, he worked with the Agahozo Youth Village, a nonprofit focused on providing vulnerable and orphaned youth with the necessary healing, education, and leadership skills to transform their communities.  

Over the years, Jeremiah’s contributions have also been recognised with various awards, including the African Leadership Academic Excellence Award, the African Leadership University Innovative Thinker/Entrepreneur 2020, the Sierra Leone Academic Excellence Award 2009, and Best Student at Saint Edward's Secondary School for seven consecutive years. In 2021, he received the Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development and is also a World Wildlife Fund Top 100 Young African Conservation Leader. 

If he wins the Global Student Prize, Jeremiah will use the funds to scale up his Optim Energy project. Since the early 2000s, Sierra Leone’s energy consumption has risen by 65%, but the country’s energy systems are still underdeveloped and unable to meet the demand – over 89% of the population live without electricity, and nearly 96% rely on traditional solid biomass for cooking. With the prize funds, Jeremiah will be able to take more rural residents out of energy poverty, produce energy that is environmentally friendly, and help usher in an era of responsible consumption.