Blackouts are a common occurrence in Beit Hanina, a cluster of limestone buildings in the rugged hills north of Jerusalem.

Blackouts put a brake on commerce and economic growth which is something the West Bank and Gaza can ill afford, says Youssef Habesch, IFC’s resident representative for the West Bank and Gaza. Poverty is rampant, and more than 25 percent of residents are jobless, one of the highest rates in the world.

But those blackouts may soon be a thing of the past.

An array of solar panels running the length of a soccer field pumping energy from the sun into the West Bank’s beleaguered power grid will be fitted on nearly 500 West Bank schools over the next three years.

The $32 million project, spearheaded by local power company Massader and financed in part by IFC, will be capable of generating 25 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the equivalent of about 16,000 homes.

The rooftop arrays are the first part of what Massader and its parent company, the Palestine Investment Fund, are calling Nour Palestine, a program to develop 200 megawatts of solar power. Nour, Arabic for “light,” would provide about 30 percent of the West Bank’s power once complete.

For the West Bank it also represents a new way of doing business: private companies, instead of the state, are doing much of the construction work and providing a portion of the financing. IFC’s Habesch says that is key in cash-strapped West Bank and Gaza, which needs to invest upwards of $4 billion in its power grid.

The financing package for the solar arrays includes an IFC loan of up to $8.1 million in addition to loans from the Finland-IFC Blended Finance for Climate program and the recently launched Netherlands-IFC MENA Private Sector Development program. The project is also receiving a grant of up to $2 million from the World Bank’s Investment Co-Financing Facility.

The project is part of a larger push by IFC and the World Bank Group to bolster power supplies in the West Bank and Gaza and, in the process, jump-start economic development.

Original Source

NO Comment 13th December 2020

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