A cause, a plan of action, and a strong sense of purpose made way for the launch of the Light Up a Village (LUV) student project to install renewable energy in under-served villages in Lebanon.
In 2015, members of the Sustainable Energy for All (SSEA) club, the AUB chapter of the UN Global Energy Initiative, started the LUV project: A 100% student-based undertaking with the goal of both enhancing a village’s wellbeing as well as raising awareness on the importance of renewable energy and its impact on the future of Lebanon. Within a year, the students succeeded to start implementing16 decentralized solar light poles, 10 already installed, in addition to 10 solar kits for 10 impoverished homes to be installed by January 2017 in the project pilot village, Majdel in Akkar, North of Lebanon.
A ceremony was held at AUB that showcased the journey of the students towards the successful completion of phase one of their project in the presence of AUB students; administration; professors who shared their knowledge and expertise with SSEA; project partners (EU/UNDP CEDRO Project); and sponsors who funded the renewable energy installations: BankMed; Deloitte; Byblos Bank; and the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture in Tripoli and the North of Lebanon.
“This is one of the most impressive projects that we have seen carried out in our 150th year,” said President Fadlo R. Khuri. “We are very proud to say that sustainability has been one of the primary watchwords of our administration. It has been the presiding principle that the University leadership and its board should plan on a sustainable AUB in a sustainable Lebanon and we try to do that with every major decision.”
The SSEA daringly expanded from its original goal of providing the campus with projects related to sustainability to make an impact in society. The students, who came from different backgrounds at AUB including engineering, medicine, history, and marketing, went off to do intensive research, consult with professors, contact municipalities, establish partnerships, and of course secure sponsorship. A team that had started with nine members eventually recruited 25 students working on the technical design of the project, marketing the project online and offline, holding stands at events, and creating awareness about the importance of renewable energy and the preservation of the environment.
“Renewable energy shouldn’t be a far-fetched idea in the minds of Lebanese citizens,” said President of SSEA, Mariam Dabboussi. “Light Up A Village is our way of proving that even a handful of students driven by vision and passion, can achieve anything…Our project is meant to inspire our student community to engage in their passions and impact the world around them.”
After much research, consultation, and communication with a host of municipalities, the pilot village, Majdel, was selected. With a high rate of poverty, Majdel has 3,000 inhabitants, including more than 500 Syrian refugees. The inhabitants get an electricity cutoff of at least 24 hours in every 48 hours.
“The idea of the project stems from the drive to improve the Lebanese situation in both the electrical and environmental domains, as we do not want to only fulfill electricity consumption requirements, but to also provide it in an environmentally-friendly way,” Project Manager Mohamad Fares Al Jajeh told us.
“What purpose is anything we do or accumulate if we don’t let the knowledge we gain have an impact on others,” said Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Talal Nezameddin. “These students don’t need the slogans that the older generations used, they do; they make a difference with every action in every day. They are mature young people who have grown up at a very young age.”
“What is really inspiring for me every day about AUB students is the way in which all of you always look to make a positive impact and to make a difference in everything around you. This is not a common quality even in the great universities. There is a sense of mission and motivation here,” President Fadlo R. Khuri told the students.
Phase two of the LUV project is taking off and a new village is planned to be lit up using different renewable energy systems every year.
“We overcame obstacles because of our insistence to make the project work. We are driven by passion and resilience. We will not stop here,” said Al Jajeh.