The hunt for alternative ways to power Israel

March 8, 2016 19:25

The chief scientist at the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Ministry says the base of power production in Israel “will always come from fossil fuels.”

2 minute read.

A power station is seen in Ashdod

A power station is seen in Ashdod. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Following a day of talks about oil and gas at the first Kinneret Oil, Energy and Gas Conference on Tuesday at Kinneret College, Israeli experts in the field of fuel are looking for alternatives to petrofuels.

When asked why natural gas is often the focus of this search rather than other forms of renewable energy, Bracha Halaf, chief scientist at the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Ministry, said that the base of power production in Israel “will always come from fossil fuels.”

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She emphasized the importance, however, of having a variety of energy resources available. Natural gas, though still a fossil fuel, has the advantage of having cleaner emissions than other fossil fuels.

“Gas is here to stay for the next 20 years,” Gidon Friedman, the head of renewable energy at the ministry, told The Jerusalem Post.

Halaf spoke at the conference at Kinneret College and was on the team that formulated the college’s new Bachelor of Science degree program in Oil, Gas and Energy Engineering.

According to Halaf, Israel has been undergoing “a revolution in the past few years with the discovery of natural gas.” Still, she said the country is lacking enough engineers, physicists, geologists and other experts to properly deal with it. In that sense, the new degree program could prove critical.

A survey released at the conference showed that twothirds of Israelis are uninformed about the details of Israel’s natural gas outline.

It also showed that half of those surveyed are supportive of investing money in alternative energy, even if it would mean a rise in prices for the time-being. The ministry seems to already be in tune to this.

Halaf noted that the ministry has spent NIS 100m. to research and develop alternative energy.

Friedman said that one of the ministry’s major alternative energy focuses is hydrogen fuel cells, and that a small tank of hydrogen can power a car for 500-1,000 km.

“Each car is a big source of electricity,” he said. “Each one can produce 100 kilowatts – enough to power a house or even several houses.”

Using hydrogen-fueled cars as back-up generators is one idea currently in the works, Friedman said. He noted that among the biggest issues holding back the viability of renewable energy is the lack of storage, though hydrogen fuel cells could be used as a means for energy storage.

While hydrogen-fueled vehicles are beginning to become available in parts of the US and Japan, Friedman said there are no concrete plans to bring that technology to the Israeli market just yet.

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