How Palestine’s new GREENOVATION Hub will bring industrial decarbonization a step closer

The new GREENOVATION Hub, a specialized unit integrated within the Palestinian Business Prosperity Center at the Jericho Agribusiness Industrial Park in the West Bank, is on a pivotal mission: to help industries decarbonize their operations. A first for Palestine, promising not only enhanced sustainability for companies, but also a boost to their competitiveness.

Please note: The research and interviews for this article were done before the current conflict.

“Energy is always a major challenge for the development of industry; the chronic energy shortages and high costs of electricity are a permanent reality in Palestine,” says Ahmed ElFarra, UNIDO Senior Programme Officer in Palestine, who is instrumental in making the GREENOVATION Hub a reality. “Decarbonization, energy access, energy security and energy costs are a burden for Palestinian enterprises. The GREENOVATION Hub is about finding industry-driven solutions to address these challenges.”

The Palestinian government established the Jericho Agribusiness Industrial Park (JAIP) in 2012 with support from the Government of Japan’s “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity” initiative. It was set up as a multi-sector industrial space, although it had a focus on agro-industry, to serve as a main gateway for Palestinian exports and to boost the competitiveness of its tenants.

In 2021, the Palestinian Business Prosperity Center – or PalPRO as it is commonly known – was established within JAIP in partnership between Japan, the Palestinian Authority and with technical support from UNDP. The goal was to provide business development services to the 30 or so companies in the industrial park. PalPRO has a business development unit, a fabrication laboratory for agri-product development and testing, and it also offers ICT and technology support.

Two years later, in March 2023, UNIDO began working with the governments of Japan and Palestine and JAIP’s partners in a one-year programme to upgrade the current offerings and develop new demand-driven services, not just for companies at JAIP but for industries across Palestine.

“The focus [of this new project] is all about industry,” says Ahmed. “The aim is to respond to industrial energy needs and innovation challenges through feasible, sustainable solutions that are tailor made for Palestine industry.”

Demand-driven decarbonization services

UNIDO has been active in Palestine since 2014, working with local industrial enterprises to increase their competitiveness through business innovation, technical and production upgrading, implementation of market access strategies, and also through access to sustainable energy solutions.

As part of its efforts for upgrading PalPRO services, UNIDO initiated an exploration of the additional services that would help both JAIP’s tenants and the broader Palestinian industry across Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza Strip to enhance their competitiveness and innovate. To this end, UNIDO’s experts conducted an in-depth assessment involving 280 companies to understand their energy use.

The first of its kind for most industries, the assessment uncovered a widespread reliance on electrical energy and significant potential for implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency interventions. The survey also highlighted the absence of specialized national expertise in designing, implementing, and maintaining renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions and the consequent need for training. Building on these insights, the assessment findings played a pivotal role in shaping the services of the GREENOVATION Hub and contributed to PalPRO’s increased demand-driven orientation.

With a focus on five priority sectors, an additional assessment was conducted by UNIDO experts with aim to design upgrades and expansions to PalPRO’s existing services, ensuring a comprehensive service approach towards market growth. The prioritized sectors selected based on defined criteria and in consultation with project partners and stakeholders included: food industry, furniture industry, stone and marble industry, leather and shoes industry, and textiles and garment industry.

A new national workforce with energy expertise

One of the key services offered by the GREENOVATION Hub is training to build local expertise on energy efficiency measures and renewable technologies. In July 2023, around 35 energy practitioners in the West Bank undertook energy auditing training through the GREENOVATION Hub, equipping them to audit Palestinian companies looking to enhance their energy competitiveness and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 25 experts have also been trained in August 2023 in the Gaza Strip. Once certified, these trainees will add their expertise to a growing pool of Palestinian energy experts who have been trained by UNIDO on energy management systems and solar power, all of which will be critical to expand decarbonization expertise and activities in the country. This will further lay the foundation for a sustainable post-conflict industrial recovery and reconstruction once started.

The GREENOVATION Hub will serve as the collective home for these energy experts. Interconnected to the TAQAT’s digital platform, a Peer-to-Peer platform connecting players from the energy and business sectors developed under the EU-funded MOUSTADAMA Programme, it will provide any business that wants to use the services of an energy expert with access to the best professionals available.

To optimize resources distribution and achieve a significant scale-up, the GREENOVATION Hub is planning to enhance connectivity with other industrial hubs in Palestine. This networked approach, which will involve the industrial park of Bethlehem and, in the day after, for that of Gaza, aims to reinforce the complementarity of the Hub’s vocation and provide strategic support to the entrepreneurial and industrial fabric, which will prove to be particularly crucial in the post-conflict period.

Clean-tech solutions

The GREENOVATION Hub will also matchmake industrial businesses with the Palestinian cleantech start-ups that are developing sustainable energy solutions and energy efficiency innovations to meet specific business needs. As part of this, the GREENOVATION Hub will coordinate the Fablab Network; seven research and development laboratories across the country that can support clean-tech start-ups to build prototypes.

“Say a start-up, an entrepreneur, wants to build a [clean tech] prototype, and needs access to this sort of machine or that sort of tool to build it; the Fablab Network will enable this process,” explains Ahmed. “There will be a mobile app enabling the entrepreneur to work out what sort of machine they are looking for and where to find it, then schedule a time with the respective lab to utilize it.”

The GREENOVATION Hub will also provide links to attractive financing so that companies can invest in the sustainable energy solutions they need.

“There is already a financial facility available for JAIP tenants. We want to make this more accessible and feasible to industry at JAIP and aiming to decarbonize their operations,” says Ahmed. “The plan is to provide loan guarantee facilities and preferential lower interest rates, and a grace period of up to one year, by partnering programs and banks that we already work with in Palestine. What companies have to pay in terms of instalments, they will gain in the savings they make every month in energy costs, so we are making it feasible and doable for the industry.”

The support and steps being taken will serve to embed sustainable energy solutions to a growing number of Palestine businesses, and by doing so enable much-needed industrial development to continue in ways that are good for people and the planet.

Ahmad Haj Hasan, CEO of the Palestine Investment and Industrial Estates Agency (IPIEA) said: “IPIEA is fully committed to making the Palestinian economy more attractive. We’re actively working to foster investment, improve policies, and promote technology transfer to give Palestine an edge in global competition. At the Jericho Agro Industrial Park (JAIP), PalPRO has always been at the forefront of innovation, and the new GREENOVATION Hub will only strengthen this vocation. Made possible by the generous support of the Government of Japan and implemented by our partners at UNIDO, this hub will play a key role in supporting businesses in our park by fostering advanced product development, promoting clean technologies, and encouraging efforts to support industrial decarbonization and energy security. Thanks to the GREENOVATION Hub, our businesses will be better equipped to compete globally, and it will also result in job creation. We’re confident that this new business centre will not only strengthen JAIP, but also contribute to the sustainable growth of the Palestinian economy”.