Power outages in the West Bank occur frequently. For students, blackouts result in classrooms without necessities like lights, computers, and fans — at times, for up to a week or more.
“We can’t focus on learning because of the heat,” said Juman Jad, a student at an all-girls school in Jericho, where summer temperatures often top 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).
To reduce the interruptions in education, nearly 500 schools in the West Bank are being outfitted with arrays of solar panels over the next three years. This first-of-its kind project aims to develop the renewable energy sector and address chronic power shortages by harnessing a domestically available source of energy.
This $32 million project is being led by Massader, a local power company. The financing package for the project includes an Israeli Shekel loan of up to $8.1 million equivalent from IFC, in addition to loans from the Finland-IFC Blended Finance for Climate Program and the Netherlands and IFC Private Sector Development Program in MENA (Middle East and North Africa). The project is also receiving a grant of up to $2 million from the World Bank’s Investment Co-Financing Facility.
The solar arrays will eventually generate 35 megawatts of clean electricity, enough to power the equivalent of about 16,000 homes across the West Bank. It is part of a larger program called Noor Palestine, in which Massader is joining with its parent company, the Palestine Investment Fund, to develop 200 megawatts of solar power — enough to provide about 30 percent of the West Bank’s power.
The arrival of solar energy is a huge step in reducing energy dependency in the West Bank, where up to 90 percent of electricity is imported. The solar arrays project has also bolstered the private sector. Private companies, instead of the state, are doing much of the construction work for the project and providing part of the financing.
In a novel arrangement, the schools served by the solar arrays project will receive free electricity and, in some cases, cash payments for hosting the installations. Most of the electricity generated from the solar panels will then be fed into local distribution systems at a competitive tariff. This will create a more conducive environment for public services and private enterprise.
The solar arrays project is part of a broader strategy by IFC and the World Bank Group to catalyze private investment in the Palestinian economy, with the goal of achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
IFC’s role in structuring the project included building local capacity by developing key project documents, such as the power purchasing agreements and construction and operating contracts. This assistance is expected to help the future development of more decentralized, low-cost private sector projects with sound financial structuring.
Jad’s school was recently outfitted with solar panels, creating cooler indoor conditions that will help students pay more attention in the classroom. “Frankly, I like the idea of the solar arrays,” the teenager said.