By:Hassan Harajli

CEDRO stands for ‘Community Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Demonstration project for the Recovery of Lebanon’. It stands for cedar tree in the Spanish language given that the Spanish government donated 9.73 million USD via the Lebanon Recovery Fund (LRF) to establish the CEDRO project in 2007 in the aftermath of the 2006 Israeli aggression on Lebanon. The CEDRO project is a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) executed project in coordination with the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW), the Ministry of Finance (MoF), and the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR).

After three years of being established, CEDRO has offered and is offering many informative aspects and lessons learned about energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RE) applications in Lebanon. These lessons, outlined in this article, encourage similar initiatives to be implemented throughout the Arab world in order that the EE and RE markets in the region take root and become more mature and able to significantly contribute to the growing energy demand in the region while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the energy sector.

CEDRO works concurrently on three main fronts; the ‘technological front’, the ‘research front’, and the ‘national awareness front’.

The ‘technological front’ is the bulk of CEDRO’s work, and through this category the actual implementation of EE and RE projects are realized, concentrating on micro-generation, a sub-set of ‘distributed generation’ where generating capacities of low-carbon sources do not exceed 50 kW for both electricity and/or heat applications. To date, 25 photovoltaic systems of either 1.2 or 1.8 kWp capacity have been installed in regions across Lebanon in public institutions ranging from schools to community centers and local municipalities. These systems are complete with inverters, controllers and data-loggers, and back-up storage battery systems. In the near future, multiple sites which will be tested for wind availability through the installation of anemometers (wind readers) will be selected, and where sufficient wind regimes are found on selected sites, micro-wind systems will be installed. With respect to hot water, large solar hot water (SHW) systems with capacities ranging from 2,000 to 12,000 Liters have been installed in public institutions such as Saida hospital in the South of Lebanon, and Hermal Governmental Hospital in the Bekaa region, offering substantial savings on the use of diesel oil for heating water. Last, Street lighting options are being demonstrated, particularly PV street-lighting implemented in a Batroun and Assia in the northern regions of Lebanon, and light-emitting diodes (LED) street lighting options currently under preparation for a street in Moukhtara, a village in southern Mount Lebanon.

The success of the ‘technological front’ can only be measured by the extent that further similar investments are initiated by the private sector. At the end of the day, CEDRO is a demonstration project with a limited budget. Therefore the main objective of CEDRO is to assist in paving the ground for EE and RE applications. To achieve this, the barriers which impede the penetration of microgenerators in Lebanon are identified and measures that remove these barriers are worked on. These barriers are mainly techno-economic. All the installed electricity-generating systems are designed to export electricity, yet currently the law prohibits such export. For example, on a sunny weekend when the schools are closed and the battery systems are full, there undoubtedly would be excess electricity which can be used elsewhere yet is currently wasted. The MEW is working currently on an energy conservation law, and if ‘net metering’ is introduced in this law, the economics of the RE applications would change dramatically given that the excess exported electricity can be deducted from the imported electricity at the end of each billing period, and the use of batteries as storage can be eliminated, reducing the price of RE applications by at least 25%. ‘Net metering’ is used in many nations, including the US. It is a technically and administrative simple and feasible option to consider not only in Lebanon, yet across the Arab world, particularly when feed-in tariffs (FITs) are either not implemented due to a lack of funds or political willingness to properly increase RE penetrations, or due to a general electricity situation such as that in Lebanon where the current tariffs are far from even meeting the average cost of generation.

The second main activity of CEDRO is the ‘research front’. Recently in Lebanon, the Prime Minister Saad Hariri indicated through the ministerial declaration and at the Copenhagen Summit late last year that Lebanon shall strive to achieve 12% of its electricity mix to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. How this is to be achieved was left for further study, and the CEDRO project is assisting in filling the knowledge gap in knowing what RE sources can be used to achieve this aim by 2020. First in this context, all the installed RE application discussed above have data loggers which will enable the assessment of technical performance and economic benefits of the systems. From these RE applications, the potential for microgeneration in Lebanon would be disseminated according to various scenarios. Secondly, the national wind atlas of Lebanon is under implementation from an internationally renowned firm in this field , contracted from CEDRO, and should be out later this year, where the ‘constrained potential’ of large-scale onshore and offshore wind energy capacity for Lebanon will be identified. ‘Constrained potential’ means that all those areas, such as urban areas, military areas, national reserve areas and so forth where wind farms cannot be located are excluded from the analysis of ‘potential’. At time of writing, the national bioenergy strategy for Lebanon is also being initiated by CEDRO. Biomass for heat and power can be sourced from conventional forestry management, such as the thinning, felling and coppicing of sustainably managed forests, parklands and trees from other green spaces. It can be sourced from agricultural crops and residues, which usually are crops grown primarily for use in energy generation (‘energy crops’), and agricultural residues such as straw, husk and kernels. A third source of bioenergy is biomass from biodegradable waste and other similar materials which include sewage sludge, animal manure, waste wood from construction, and food waste that would otherwise be disposed of in landfill. A last source, landfill biogas, includes biogas obtained by forced degasification of existing landfills. Bioenergy sources meet, for example, up to 25% of total energy consumption in nations such as Sweden and Finland, up to 15% in other nations such Portugal, Austria and Denmark, and up to 5% in nations such as Greece, Spain and Hungry, with an EU-27 average of 6.7%. In Lebanon, the use of biomass is minor and is limited mostly to the use of wood for heating. The assessment of the potential is therefore highly required under strict ‘sustainability’ criteria which ensure that no negative impacts on food supplies and prices, and on other social, economic and environmental indicators are realised. Last, the CEDRO project will also be analysing the need for assessing the hydro-power and the solar power (concentrated solar power) potential in Lebanon. Put together, the above studies will indicate the renewable energy potential of Lebanon, and it would be up to the government and the private sector in Lebanon to realise that potential.

The final front of CEDRO, the ‘national awareness front’ focuses on spreading awareness in the community about RE and EE applications. This ‘awareness’ is targeted at young students in schools where the RE systems are installed, as well as national media coverage across the Lebanese community to spread the importance of RE and EE applications for our energy security, for the diversification of our energy sources, for our national economic well-being, and most importantly for our need to lower GHG emissions and take responsibility for our future generations.

Projects such as CEDRO are vital for RE and EE markets in the Middle East. Given that such markets are still in their inception stage, providing secure and sufficient sources of funding creates the necessary stability in the market for private sector players to be encouraged to expand their RE portfolios. CEDRO is a live example of this. In 2008 for example, around 10 local renewable energy firms applied to be shortlisted at CEDRO to be able to bid for projects at CEDRO, of which seven succeeded in being shortlisted. In 2010, 27 firms applied for short-listing, of which 13 succeeded in being shortlisted given a minimum required standard. These firms employ between 15-50 employees each, and the existence of projects such as CEDRO will undoubtedly create leverage in the market, where these firms will not sit idly waiting for projects to be released from CEDRO alone, yet will be seeking other opportunities elsewhere in the private sector. Furthermore, strengthening the RE market will increase competition and reduce the costs of RE applications. Again CEDRO attests to that. In 2009 for example, a 6,000 liter SHW project was won by a company for approximately 150,000 USD. In 2010, a similarly sized system was won for approximately 100,000 USD, a more than 30% drop in the cost tag.

To this end, small-scale RE applications in the Arab world would benefit enormously from grants that enable such projects, as the CEDRO project to be implemented via competitive and transparent bidding. Until the time when feed-in tariffs are introduced in the Arab world, Arab governments would do well in initiating such grants, which will help in establishing the market for renewables in the region and assist in driving our energy system towards sustainability or along the path of sustainable development.

Hassan Harajli is CEDRO project manager.