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French Version

Donors may contribute solar-power apparatus for new homes

At least three international donors are considering using a portion of reconstruction aid to finance the installation of renewable energy units in newly built residences in Southern Lebanon.

A project manager from the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) energy efficiency branch - which works in coordination with the Ministry of Energy and Water (MoEW) - declined to name the countries or organizations currently reviewing proposals, but said two embassies and one global NGO have shown interest in funding the $12 million project.

"What we are doing now is trying to secure at least partial donations to install 12,000 solar thermal water-heating units, rather than electric heaters, in homes that have been destroyed in Southern villages," Anwar Nour Ali told The Daily Star in a phone interview.

"We also want all reconstructed houses in the South and buildings in the Dahiyeh to use energy-efficient lamps which are affordable and not a big investment, but contractors want to save money so they use the cheapest ones possible," Ali said, adding that the LL4,000-LL5,000 lamps will result in an 80 percent saving for consumers. The MoEW estimates that solar water-heating systems would reduce each homeowner's electricity bill by 25-30 percent.

Earlier this year the Order of Engineers and Architects began requiring that all newly designed houses be equipped for solar water heaters in order to obtain construction permits. Building schematics must include provisions for where and how a solar water heater can be installed and connected to the plumbing system.

Similar regulations were not extended to apartment complexes, since the installation of solar panels on the roofs of multi-owner buildings is problematic in the absence of government legislation, but new standards do require contractors to install plumbing large enough to allow for the future installation of solar heating units.

The UNDP is also promoting a third proposal for the windows, walls and roofs of new apartment buildings in the southern suburbs to be constructed on an energy-efficient basis, though Ali said they are not focusing on the project.

The Energy Research Group (ERG) at AUB is in the progress of completing a report on using solar water heaters in reconstructed residences. They estimate that the residential sector accounts for 38 percent of Lebanon's annual energy consumption - with electric water heaters using the most power per household after air conditioners and space heaters - but the absence of a comprehensive energy efficiency strategy has hindered the adoption of such technology in the past.

If obstacles like high initial procurement costs and lack of trained installers and import legislation are overcome, ERG concludes in its draft report that installing domestic solar water heating units might reduce the need to build new power plants.

Zakaria Rammel, a representative from the MoEW, confirmed that the ministry is coordinating with the UNDP on securing donors for a domestic renewable energy program in Southern villages, but he was not able to verify the details of the proposals before The Daily Star went to press.

"We are working with the UNDP on this, but it shouldn't be seen as a reconstruction donation because the Chinese had already donated solar panels last year, but unfortunately during the war at least half of these were destroyed," Rammel said. "We are asking them to replace these and possibly install more," he said.

Ali gave no time frame for the project, but said it will not be feasible for at least 18 months since units cannot be installed until houses are built.

Beirut 06-10-2006
Lysandra Ohrstrom
The Daily Star

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