An-Najah National University: Towards a Sustainable Energy Future for Palestine
“An-Najah University is committed to a sustainable society and encourages researchers, staff, students, and stakeholders to actively contribute to solutions. I hope that we could reach a turning point that really accelerates positive change toward a sustainable energy future. We will achieve that point when we finally realize that we are all connected in so many ways, so we need to work together and coordinate all our efforts to create a better future for ourselves and our children in Palestine.” Dr. Imad Ibrik said.
We joined Dr. Imad Ibrik, Director of Energy Research Center (ERC) at An- Najah National University, to find out more about his role in advancing sustainable energy at An-Najah National University. Dr. Ibrik gave us an insight into the future of clean energy in Palestine, areas he would prioritize to help An-Najah move forward sustainably, and how the Center's projects have achieved some local and global firsts.
Q1) Could you tell us a little bit about your background, and what inspires you most about working in the fields of energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable energy and more specifically for An-Najah Energy Research Center?
In 1992, I graduated from Vinnitsa State Technical University in Ukraine with a M.Sc in Electrical Power Engineering specialized in power supply of cities and industrial sector, then I obtained my PhD degree in Power System Analysis from Vinnitsa State Technical University in May 1996 (Honors degree).
I started my career as a sustainable energy consultant and worked for 25 years in various areas of power system engineering and its sub sectors (design of electrical part stations and substations, electrical installation, energy management, economics of energy, solar and wind sources and energy audits).
I currently work as an associate professor and the director of the Energy Research Center at An-Najah University, and I am the coordinator of the PhD program in Sustainable Energy Technology at the University. Furthermore, I am an expert in the area of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and I managed and conducted several projects in the power system engineering, and conducted training programs for the energy efficiency and renewable energy applications.
What drives me, is seeing the impact that forward-thinking universities can have by introducing even the smallest sustainability measures. These impacts are seen both on the bottom line and on the environment. Linking An-Najah University to leading lights in academic research in sustainable energy through the Energy Research Center is very exciting stuff.
At the end of the day the opportunity to see my work has an end use really spurs me on. My work involves working on a problem that can actually make a difference to people’s lifestyles. Creating sustainable energy and resources is also one of the really big challenges for modern society, so I feel satisfied that our work is making a difference on a global scale.
Q2) For those who have not heard of ERC, could you briefly explain its role?
The Energy Research Center was established in 2001. It is concerned with research, development, system design, feasibility studies, training in all conventional and renewable energy fields, energy management and energy conservation. Its fundamental aim is to transform the sustainable energy sector through business research. We act as a broker bringing research partners together, and providing signposting to a range of other sustainable energy stakeholders and activities.
We also aim to find solutions to national and global energy and energy-related problems by collaborating local and international agencies, energy businesses, technology developers and suppliers, the research community and academic institutions.
The ERC brings together professional staff within An-Najah University to conduct research, foster partnerships between government and industry, provide funding, research and educational opportunities to university graduate and undergraduate students, and promote international research collaboration.
Q3) Could you describe the implications ERC has had so far (locally/regionally), and the value in having such a center in Palestine?
Our Center team has achieved some global, local and regional firsts, particularly in the research of Energy Efficiency, Global Environment, Electric Power Systems, Energy Storage, Data Monitoring and Collection, Solar Thermal, Photovoltaic, Wind Energy.
As the world is fighting climate change and exploring alternative ways to generate energy, An-Najah is prioritizing the use of renewable energy for generating electricity for its buildings and classrooms as part of its sustainable campus initiatives.
The Center performed several activities at the University within ENI CBC-MED Med-EcoSuRe project, including the implementation of Photovoltaic power plants on the roof of the university buildings. So far a capacity 220 kW of solar panels have been installed and 55 kW are under construction.
The University will benefit from this project by reducing the emissions by around 330 ton of CO2 per year and reducing the University electricity bill by 357 MWh per year. Also, the project will result in reducing the use of diesel fuel during the long hours of electricity cuts to provide better services to its students and staff.
Through such pioneering projects, the University has jointly helped update and change the Palestinian higher education institutions' policies for Sustainable Development and renewable energy.
The University now has a plan to depend on solar energy by covering at least 80% of the total energy consumption, noting that the rate at the present time has reached 30-40%, and this contributed to saving on the University high electricity bill.
Q4) What advice can you give to those trying to be more sustainable?
If not now, when? The climate crisis is already upon us, so whatever initiatives you think might help, start them now! Be part of a community. Decrease your carbon footprint. Ask policymakers and petition your governments to change things for the better.
Q5) Could you please talk about the First Solar Power Station Inaugurated at An-Najah University?
In 2020, An-Najah University inaugurated the first solar power station "An-Najah" with a capacity of 995 kilowatts under the supervision of the ERC.
The project will meet the energy needs of the University and will contribute to providing it with electricity through permanent and clean energy. These efforts are fully in line with the Global Sustainable Development Agenda (SDG’s 2030), specifically SGD 7 and the University's strategic plan.
A large number of solar panel systems in An-Nassariya Village (Sumait plain) has been installed. The solar power station is expected to help reduce electricity bills by 20-25%.
Protecting and preserving our environment is important for us and is one of An-Najah's goals. Moreover, the building of sustainable, vibrant, and clean communities is another one of our goals within the context of An-Najah sustainable development agenda.
Q6) What are your hopes for the future?
I hope that we could reach a tipping point that really accelerates positive change toward a sustainable energy future. We will achieve that tipping point when we finally realize that we are all connected in so many ways, whether we like it or not, so we need to coordinate all our efforts to create a better future for ourselves and our children.
I hope that digitalization of the energy can help us make a relatively easy and smooth transition to a sustainable energy future now, so that we don’t have to make a difficult and bumpy transition to it after climate change takes a terrible toll.
Q7) What are the prospects for renewable energy sources, such as solar, playing a larger role in building a resilient power grid in Palestine?
Renewables help to enhance energy source diversity while reducing the carbon intensity of the power grid. There are opportunities both domestically and regionally to boost the role of renewables in Palestine.
Solar energy is the most promising domestic renewable resource. All efforts are being made to harness this resource. To overcome land scarcity, we have gone beyond rooftop solar and are actively exploring other alternatives.
Q8) Finally, given that your role surrounds sustainable energy, have you made any changes to your own life to become more sustainable?
Not as many changes as I would have liked but it is still a work in progress. We installed a solar PV system at home and have a reasonably strong energy efficiency regime in place. We have two wood-burning stoves in the house that are largely fueled by waste wood.