ESMES: the idea behind a project on energy efficiency in schools of the Mediterranean area

Photo © UNDP Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People

What is the background for a project on energy efficiency for your organization?

The Institute for University Cooperation (ICU), leader of the project, has a relatively recent experience on renewable energy and energy efficiency (since 2013/2014). The willingness to work on this topic was born working with farmers and local institutions on projects related to sustainable water use for agriculture. In those contexts our organization realized that access to energy is one of the most important issues that countries in the Mediterranean basin are facing.

ICU started working on renewable energies and particularly on solar systems connected with irrigation for a project (2011-2015) in Jordan and Lebanon called ENSIAP ("Improving of Environmental Sustainability of Irrigated Agricultural Production in Lebanon and Jordan") funded under ENPI CBC Med 2007-2013 Programme. Thanks to this project we equipped farmers with a simple photovoltaic solution that provides the required energy for irrigation water pumping purposes.

During this project, our team realized that energy is a key issue also for public building representing both a limiting factor and a development opportunity. We had the chance of working with the Nabeul Municipality in Tunisia on SUDEP ("Sustainable Urban Demonstration Projects") project which had the aim of providing the Municipality with the possibility to implement, replicate autonomously and demonstrate to the neighboring municipalities, photovoltaic solutions that can be undertaken in order to ensure the electricity supply needed for the public water, public buildings and urban lighting use. This action allowed to raise the awareness of the population about environmental sustainiblity and renewable energy: eventually the city of Nabeul benefited from a long term energy plan that is now an example for other communities.

By developing projects on energy efficiency and renewable energy with public institutions, ICU aims to have a sustainable and long term impact, implementing solutions that are effective but also easy to manage for local communities. ESMES ("Energy Smart Mediterranean Schools Network") aims to achieve this objective by combining the technical expertise of the local partners involved across the Mediterranean basin.

 Which is the relationship between your organization and the local partners involved in the project?

The relationship with local institutions is fundamental, as it guarantees the impact and sustainability of the project results. A project that interacts only with the direct beneficiaries, without taking into account the entire ecosystem of the actors, has less chance of success than a project in which local institutions are considered and empowered.

The word "cooperation" suggests the presence of several stakeholders working towards a common goal, which must be relevant for the final beneficiaries. In this respect, a project must rely on both the donor and the main beneficiary and local partners to succeed.

We firmly believe that if the cooperation with the public institutions gives good results, the institutions themselves will consider and address the needs of its beneficiaries in the future. 

For this reason, ESMES foresees a strong involvement of local institutions. The project aims to develop the technical knowledge and operational skills of institutions in planning, implementing and evaluating energy rehabilitations of public buildings that are sustainable, cost-effective and tailored on building types and uses, energy loads and climatic zones. In this regard, the project works as an accelerator of development, which could lead to the spreading of innovative energy practices in the Mediterranean basin.

 The project expected achievements are:

  • Capacities of 5 public institutions to implement innovative energy rehabilitations in public schools are enhanced through multilevel governance and adoption of energy mix efficiency strategies  
  • Energy consumption in 10 public schools is optimised through innovative, monitoring-based Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (REEE) pilots
  • 120,000 people improve Sustainable Energy habits through mutual influence, leading impact on broader public.
  • 8,000 students are trained, getting better Sustainable Energy employment opportunities

Which are the future developments that we can foresee after ESMES project?

The development of innovative projects in the future is strongly connected to the strategies and priorities set by donors. Among these topics, the development of local business ventures (both in the forms of startups and existing enterprises) is probably of utmost importance. Supporting small enterprises that works in the energy sector by structuring and reinforcing their governance and managerial/financial capabilities could guarantee the durability and scalability of the innovative solutions applied. A profitable company that develops useful and innovative solutions to the community and believes in the professional development of its employees is the most sustainable initiative that we can support.

This approach leads to a new horizon of cooperation projects related to renewable energy and energy efficiency, which could strengthen local enterprises and foster innovation, while relieving the burden on public budget.

For more informaiton about ESMES, please visit the project website.