An EU-funded project has been launched in Syria, with the aim to incorporate environmental energy programmes, solar energy programmes and training in higher education.
The Trans-European Mobility Programme for University Studies, (TEMPUS) brings together academics from Austria, Germany and Syria. They study ways to improve the curriculum and train staff in the better development of environmentally friendly ways to produce power, ranging from windmills to solar energy.
Dr Salman Ajib of the Technical University of Ilmenau, Germany is working on the project and spoke to IRIN in Damascus.
“The project’s main target is to enable the coming generation to vastly use renewables in the country. This is because renewables contribute to a healthier environment and reduce energy-based environment effects," he said explaining the benefit of the work to local communities.
Air pollution, he said, profoundly harms the quality of life in the community and leads to huge costs to individuals, businesses and governments for health care and impaired economic activity, at the same time reducing property values.
There are high pollution levels in Damascus and a reduction in the emission of air pollutants is critical to protecting people’s health and the stability of the global climate, according to experts.
“Thus, the use of renewables will reduce carbon dioxide, curb environmental pollution and global warming, as climate change is likely to host adverse effects on human health,” Ajib stressed.
More importantly, the use of such energy sources would enable Syria to meet the people’s needs for hot water and heating for years to come, experts say.
“This project is especially important in the context of raising awareness in Syria for efficiency improvement in consumption of energy and renewable energies. It comes at a time where we have noticed an increased concern for the correct use of energy, especially with regard to helping safeguard our environment,” Fabienne Bessonne, First Secretary with the Delegation of the European Commission (EC) in Syria, told IRIN.
She noted that Syria was making more efforts to further explore ways of using cleaner and more efficient energy.
The National Energy Research Centre is a result of these efforts. It was Established in 2003 and carries out important work in areas such as wind and solar energy, in co-operation with the Higher Institute of Applied Science and Technology (HIAST).
But equally important is the legislative and regulatory work in progress. The aim of the new regulations is to encourage the use of renewable energy and to establish an insulation code developing an energy efficiency labelling system for home appliances.
The TEMPUS project is designed to develop a curriculum for renewable energies, train teaching staff accordingly, establish new experiments and organise [the] transfer of knowledge and exchange of experience among the partner universities; Kassel University in Germany, Graz University in Austria and Damascus University, said Bessonne.
"The programme is supporting reform in higher education in the country by paving the way for universities in Syria to tap into the experiences of universities in Europe and the Mediterranean region in the areas of curriculum development, university management and institution building," Bessonne said.
Since the programme was launched in Syria at the end of 2002, some 55 groups from Syrian universities have travelled to Europe to see first hand how teaching and administrative tasks are handled.
The venture has also allowed 12 joint European projects that focus mainly on curriculum development to participate.
“Because of the immense Syrian interest in TEMPUS, the programme’s full budget of 4 million euros (US $5.1 million) for 2003-2004 has been successfully allocated, while an additional 5.5 million euros (US $ 7.1 million) has been earmarked for the programme for 2005-2006,” said Bessonne.
“Oil will be available in Syria for the next 10 years. Hence, renewable energies will achieve half of the energy in Syria by 2050.” Dr Siegfried Heier of Kassel University, told IRIN.
He pointed out that solar energy and windmills could contribute substantially to cater for electricity demand and create local jobs all over the country.