Elizabeth Block

 

The majority of power generation in Syria is currently based on thermal power plants, but it has begun to explore the possibility of utilizing renewable energy resources such as wind and solar. MEE takes a look at how things are progressing.

 

The majority of power generation in Syria is based on thermal power plants. To date these have used heavy fuel oil but more recently natural gas has become the preferred fuel, with the two fuels accounting for more than 90 per cent of total power generation. The remainder comes from hydropower and very limited biomass. Syria has experienced significant growth in demand for electricity, which has been accompanied in recent years by a change in the pattern of consumption: the annual peak load shifting gradually from winter to summer as air-conditioning loads increase in size. To help address the growing and changing pattern of demand, Syria has begun to expore its potential for using its renewable energy sources. MEE discusses Syria’s renewables potential and highlights its renewable energy developments to date and its future aspirations.

A decade after President Bashar al-Assad succeeded his late father, reform is gaining pace in the Syrian Arab Republic. Private enterprise, formerly forbidden, is now encouraged, and renewable energy is one area that is now benefiting from both government support and private money.

While Syria has reserves of oil, currently accounting for just under one quarter of government revenues, production is expected to decline sharply over the next 15 years. With demand for electricity anticipated to triple by 2030, according to government data, natural gas is seen as an attractive alternative, along with renewable energy. The country has excellent wind and solar resources and international companies like Vestas are getting into the act, while Turkey and Ukraine have launched joint ventures with Syrian companies.

Syria remains under US sanctions but an ambassador was named earlier this year. Any lifting of sanctions could have a positive effect on Syria’s development of renewable energy.

Of course, many Middle Eastern countries, including oil-rich Abu Dhabi, have jumped on the renewables bandwagon, and many, like Syria, have joined IRENA – the International Renewable Energy Agency launched in early 2009. Hélène Pelosse, interim director general of IRENA, said: “The Syrian government intends to provide the policy and financing framework which is necessary in order to kick off renewable energy. It is a strong signal that we can’t rely on [the] energy of the past to power our future.”

At present, IRENA has 145 member states, including the European Union. Rather quaintly listed under ‘Asia’, other Middle East countries subscribing to IRENA include Bahrain, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

 

MASTER PLAN

 

In 2002, the Syrian government launched a master plan for the development of renewable energy. That plan called for renewables to cover 4.3 per cent of Syria’s total primary energy demand by 2011. However, it is already clear that Syria will not meet this target.

In collaboration with Germany’s Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), the government is currently developing an updated renewable energy plan, which will run until 2030 and comprise renewable expansion targets for five-year periods from 2010.

The Ministry of Electricity has a programme to install solar roofs on kindergartens at government buildings

GTZ is a federally owned organization that works worldwide in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development. It has been active in Syria since 1976 and has an office in Damascus. The new master plan for Syrian energy, entitled ‘Masterplan for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energies’ (MEERE), is due to be released soon. A MEERE progress report of January 2010 confirms that Syria offers good potential for wind energy. Solar thermal is also said to have good prospects.

Dr M. Menshawy, country director Syria and Lebanon, GTZ Damascus, said: “Syria has the strong advantage of excellent conditions for solar and wind energy. Roughly speaking, the same installation for wind power or PV (photovoltaics) in Syria will contribute twice as much to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions than it would if installed in the UK or Germany.”

While Dr Menshawy said that the last decade has seen “little progress” in the utilization of renewable energy sources in Syria, the last 18 months has brought close cooperation between GTZ and the National Energy Research Council (NERC), which is located within the Ministry of Electricity and in charge of renewables development in Syria. “We have experienced a new effort on the Syrian side to promote in particular the development of wind parks and PV applications,” he said.

Dr Menshawy noted that none of these projects has reached a stage where success is certain, but added: “If in the coming months NERC, in cooperation with the Public Establishment for Electricity Generation and Transmission (PEEGT), succeeds in starting the first wind park project, others will follow. The new electricity law will include provisions for public private partnership, which hopefully will attract private investment in wind energy. NERC has a strong will to promote PV applications, not only in remote areas, and will certainly launch pilot projects.”

He also said that higher prices for heating fuels in the last two years have been creating an expanding market for solar thermal collectors. And added that the discussions held in regard to MEERE, the master plan, make him more confident about the actual implementation of renewable energy projects.

Another German group looking closely at Syrian renewables is MVV decon GmbH. Dr Florian Sauter-Servaes of MVV’s Economics & Policy Department in Bad Homburg, a leader of the German master plan project for Syria, said: “It is no secret that Syria has large untapped potentials for solar water heating in the household and service sectors and for wind, solar PV and eventually CSP (concentrating solar power) in electricity generation.” He is looking forward to the country’s first wind park though the date has not been announced.

 

TENDER OFFERS

 

According to the Syrian government’s current five-year plan, renewables are to play a larger role. NERC states that Syria aims to get 5 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2025.

NERC has several tender offers out for wind and solar with the chosen companies to be announced soon. This is not the first time NERC has published a tender offer. In 2007, it published a call for tenders for constructing a 6 MW wind farm in Homs. However, the sole bid submitted failed to meet the technical requirements. The results of a current tender for two wind parks with a capacity of
130 MW will be announced this year.

In terms of investment, according to Syria’s latest five-year plan, a total of
$8 million is to be invested in NERC. In comparison, Public Establishment for Electricity Generation and Transmission (PEEGT), the agency, the agency responsible for generation and transmission, is to get $3.67 billion.

Issam Hindi, a spokesman for NERC, said: “We are looking to Europe, not China. We want international standards, not the lowest price.” While wind and solar are likely to be developed in the short-term, he sees geothermal energy in the future. Biomass energy is also being explored in terms of using manure in biogas generating, especially in dairy farms, and producing biodiesel from frying fat. Research is underway at the Higher Institute for Applied Sciences and Technology.

 

TRAINING & PROJECTS

 

In another positive sign, the Syrian Ministry of Higher Education has launched programmes on renewable energy to be studied at the faculties of electrical, mechanic and technical engineering. To date, research and energy training centres have been established in Damascus, Aleppo, Tishreen and al-Baath universities.

Among local projects aimed to raise awareness of renewables, the Ministry of Electricity has a programme to install solar roofs on kindergartens attached to government buildings. One kindergarten roof was unveiled by Ahmad Kussay Kayyali, Minister of Electricity, in November 2008.

Another project involves Al Mwassat hospital in Damascus. At the end of 2009, two kinds of solar were installed in order to compare performance: flat panel solar water heating and evacuated tubes. The trial period has now ended and NERC expects to announce the chosen technology soon.

Also on the solar front, Syria has about two dozen manufacturers of solar water heaters; according to NERC, pilot projects to install solar water heaters in public buildings are underway.

 

REGIONAL EFFORTS

 

Syria stands to benefit from its Mediterranean location through organizations such as the Regional Centre for Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE).

This independent regional organization, with a term running from 2008 to 2013, is based in Cairo and seeks a “common platform” for energy supply in response to climate change. According to RCREEE, Syria’s new master plan will run to 2030. The tentative targets for the end of this period are:

  • 1000–1500 MW of wind power
  • 250 MW of biomass based plant
  • 250 MW of PV plant
  • 1 MTOE per annum of solar heat

 

The existing renewable energy master plan calls for a total investment of $1.48 billion in the renewable energy sector with a focus on wind power, bio-energy, solar hot water systems and PV says RCREEE

Some PV is already in place RCREEE states that PV panels in rural areas of Syria produced about 80 KWh of electricity.

Germany’s GTZ is involved in RCREEE with €6 million ($7.4 million) from the German Ministry of Economic Development and is currently reviewing a report on Syria. Other parties include Denmark’s Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), the EU and Egypt’s New and Renewable Energy Authority.

 

PRIVATE COMPANIES

 

One of the most promising projects involves Vestas and MARAFEQ, a joint venture between Cham Holding and Kharafi Group of Kuwait. MARAFEQ was established in 2008 to develop utility projects, including power, water and wastewater treatment, in Syria. Cham Holding is well known in Syria as a prominent hotel chain but it represents one of the most ambitious examples of private capital in Syria.

With a start-up capital of $360 million, Cham Holding was launched in 2007 by the collaboration of 73 top Syrian investors, with an investment strategy that “aims to create opportunities for both the Syrian public and the economy”. Cham Holding intends to pursue its investment strategy through a series of projects in property investment and development, tourism and hospitality, power and energy, finance and banking, utilities, transportation, healthcare, education and manufacturing.

According to MARAFEQ’s announcement of 2 May 2010, a strategic partnership has been formed with Vestas to develop wind energy in Syria, starting with the submission of a joint pre-qualification to the PEEGT. This project includes the construction and operation of a wind farm with a generation capacity of 50-100 MW at two sites; Al Sukhna and Al Hijana.

The wind farm will be built and operated by an independent power producer on a BOT or BOO basis. It is expected that the development and construction of the wind farm will take close to two years. The project will be financed by MARAFEQ and other local and foreign investors and financial institutions. MARAFEQ will be the lead developer of the project, with Vestas, as co-developer providing development support and technology. The EPC work will be done by Kharafi National Company of Kuwait.

During the signature ceremony, Mahmoud Al Khoshman, CEO of MARAFEQ, said: “Syria has a considerable wind energy potential in a variety of locations promising to offer clean energy needed to meet the increasing demand for electricity in Syria in an environmentally friendly manner, and this is very much inline with the vision and strategy of MARAFEQ.”

The tender process is relatively new in Syria, due to the history of state ownership, and progress is often slow. Once the qualification process is completed and the qualified parties announced, PEEGT will issue a Request for Proposal (RFP). A period of nine to 12 months will follow for wind study and measurements so MARAFEQ estimates that construction could begin in 2013 at the earliest. The cost cannot be determined at this time as wind data are required to determine the type of turbines needed. Vestas has confirmed that it has been selected by MARAFEQ as the ‘preferred technology provider’ for this project.

Syria is also reaching out to Spain for investment. In May 2010, according to SANA, the Syrian news agency, Syria’s Minister of Electricity Ahmad Qusai Kayala visited a number of wind and solar plants in Spain, including Iberdrola and Gamesa. Anther recent joint venture involves Ukraine, with the most likely solar company being Kvazar, which has been in discussions with Syronics, a Syrian company, for several years. The aim is to produce PV panels and cells. Another, also in solar, involves Turkey’s Barak company. Another private company is Renewable Energy Systems in Damascus, which was established in 2009 by three of the largest companies in Syria to educate the public to the advantages of renewable energy, as well as provide turnkey solutions whether to individuals, or to corporations.

At present, Syria is rich in studies, official visits and master plans but actual renewable energy on the ground is very scarce. Going forward, it looks likely that approval will be granted for the wind farm and solar projects currently on the boards. More international investment can be expected to follow. MEE

 

More Middle East Energy Issue Articles

 

Articles Archives