Solar power for Bethlehem
Text by Laura Marie Kothe
Palestine is facing several major difficulties when it comes to electrical power. High electricity prices and power outages particularly affect low income households. While many countries worldwide are promoting the use of renewables, Palestine has limited access to sustainable energy sources and general awareness of these technologies is low.
EKOenergy is promoting renewable energy worldwide, not only as a clean alternative for consumers, but also as a starting point for people who do not have any access to a sustainable and reliable source of electricity. For each MWh of EKOenergy sold, the consumer pays 0,10 € into the EKOenergy Climate Fund. Using this money, EKOenergy funds projects that tackle energy poverty worldwide. In 2017, EKOenergy and the Finnish organisation Siemenpuu provided 30.000 € to the non-profit organisation Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ). ARIJ’s mission is to promote sustainable development in the occupied Palestinian territories. Furthermore, they aim to strengthen the self-reliance of Palestinians through a greater control over their natural resources.
Although Palestine is mostly sunny and has great potential for solar energy, it imports 95% of its electricity from countries dependent on fossil fuels. The Project Manager summarised us the current situation as follow: “By providing access to solar energy, this project tackles two main electricity issues: the import of electricity based on fossil fuel and the electricity prices that are, with 0,17$ per Kilowatt hour, some of the highest in the region.”
By providing solar panels, the project aims to increase the standard of living, with better heating, cooling and lighting for households. To achieve this, the population firstly needed to be informed about the photovoltaic (PV) systems and about the process of the project.
For the families involved, the electricity cost will decrease by more than 60% over the photovoltaic lifetime, which is approximately 20 years. As a lot of individuals do not have access to capital, a revolving fund has been established. Families pay back the cost of the PV system during the period from 5 to 6 years. When the cost is completely paid, the money is used for new PV systems for other families.
ARIJ raised awareness by organising public events and presentations. While the audience’s first reaction was hesitant, three families soon decided to participate in the pilot project. The installation of the first three photovoltaic systems with a total capacity of 18 kWp will provide clean electricity for 16 people.
When asked what the families expect from the project, one person answered: “To save money, to help the environment and for my children to enjoy the comfort of free electricity.” Another explained: “we decided to participate for efficiency: to achieve maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.”
The Applied Research Institute is also able to finance a local clean technology officer for two years. This person will monitor and evaluate the project. By setting up events about renewable energy and the planned photovoltaic system, ARIJ raises awareness about sustainable energy and creates a pool of expertise in clean technology. Using the revolving fund, they aim to build a capacity for these kind of projects to grow and to provide long-term solutions to Palestine’s electricity challenges.
See also our leaflet Solar power for Bethlehem (PDF)