The cabinet is looking to approve regulations that would allow for the private
investment of $120 million to build solar fields in Israeli-held areas of the
The matter could be debated as early as this Sunday by the
cabinet, whose ministers have been looking to revamp Israel’s renewable energy
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The latest set of regulations under debate would shift 10 percent
of the country’s proposed solar-energy allocation for medium-sized fields to
Judea and Samaria, sources told The Jerusalem Post.
The move comes at a
highly sensitive moment, as Palestinians have expressed despair of reaching a
peace agreement with Israel, and plan to seek unilateral recognition of
statehood from the United Nations in September.
insisted that they will not talk with Israel until it halts settlement activity.
Israel has refused to cede to this demand and has said that talks should be held
Based on the present recommendations, 30 megawatts
of the country’s total 300 megawatts for medium-sized fields would go to the
West Bank area.
According to industry figures, every watt of solar energy
costs about $4 to install, so at $4 million per megawatt, 30 megawatts worth of
medium-sized fields would cost $120 million to install.
“This is part of
the amendments that we proposed for [Prof. Eugene] Kandel’s compromise,”
confirmed a spokesman for National Infrastructures Minister, Dr. Uzi Landau, the
minister responsible for piloting the potential change.
The spokesman was
referring to an effort moderated by Kandel, the prime minister’s chief economic
adviser, to find a middle ground among ministers who have been sparring over the
country’s renewable energy future.
Meanwhile, other proposed changes for
Israel’s solar state would be an addition of 100 megawatts to rooftops and 400
megawatts to large-sized fields, and no additions to medium-sized
“Basically, it is affirmative action for those who were not able
to erect solar panels in Judea and Samaria,” the National Infrastructures
spokesman continued. “This is a basic human right that every person in Israel
has – which in this case was revoked from certain populations, and the minister
is working to fix this. Landau already worked on this subject for long months,
and now, it will commence when the decision arises for the government; this will
begin as part of the changes that we are demanding.”
The spokesman said that he does not know when a vote will
occur about the request, as the cabinet must first accept the comments as part
of the solar energy amendments.
When asked for a reaction to the proposed
shift in megawatts, the Prime Minister’s Office answered: “Yes, it’s in
discussion and we’re waiting for it to be brought back for further discussion in
the government in order to pass the program as soon as possible for the good of
MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said that he and other ministers
have been getting many letters from Judea and Samaria residents begging for
special regional quotas. He added that he told Landau that he would support new
solar energy amendments only if they included the West Bank
“Definitely, I would support it because it’s like – all
animals are equal, but some are more equal than others,” Edelstein
“The question of general discussion is how much we want on this
quota and how much should go to Judea and Samaria – but in terms of fair
competition you need a special quota there.”
According to the Public
Utility Authority’s regulations on solar power, when buying solar energy for the
national grid, the IEC must make a purchasing commitment for 20
Medium-sized fields can include both panels on ground plots – as
well as on large roofs on properties – as long as the project owners have land
titles, explained Eitan Parness, chairman of the Renewable Energy Association in
Israel and head of the Association of Solar Energy Companies.
association we are in favor of production of renewable energy anywhere, so we
don’t have any specific things to say about it shifting 30 megawatts to Judea
and Samaria,” Parness said. “We do have something to say about the government at
large – that instead of adding megawatts it is shifting megawatts, and this is
against the goals of the government, to reach 5% production through renewable
sources by 2014.
“You have to increase the quotas, not shift the quotas,”
MK Einat Wilf (Independence), a staunch supporter of solar
energy development, agreed with the idea that a shift should not replace an
increase in megawatts.
“The Treasury is not serving the interests of the
prime minister or the citizens of Israel by offering 30 megawatts of solar power
to Judea and Samaria from the existing small solar cap of 300 megawatts,” she
“There are 2,000 megawatts of solar license applications gathering
dust at the Public Utility Authority – 1,500 for medium fields and 500 for large
fields – at a time when Israel is facing an electricity crisis.
crisis – which is also the outcome of repeated sabotage of the Egyptian gas pipe
and a resulting spike in electricity prices – could have been avoided had the
Treasury green-lighted more solar caps earlier. Rather than dividing limited
quotas based on political pressure, the Treasury should lift the caps on medium
fields and support Israel's national energy security.”
But a Judea and
Samaria resident, Adi Mintz, said he has been pushing for the government to see
this shift through for quite some time.
“Now we have intentions; there is
no decision as of now,” explained Mintz, a member of the Yesha Council and CEO
of the group Green Yesha, as well as a resident of the settlement
Mintz said that Green Yesha joined up with Amana, a large Judea
and Samaria financing company, to implement clean energy in the region –
particularly solar and wind initiatives – and have already started building 40
systems of 50-kilowatt small roof panels with proper licenses.
problem about the medium systems was that until now there is no permission by
the authorities in Judea and Samaria that we can submit applications to build
them,” he said. “What happens in this market is there are 300 megawatt caps, and
as of now there are hundreds of applications coming to build 1.5 gigawatts worth
of fields – but the people of Judea and Samaria cannot build systems and cannot
Due to this prohibition, the group began speaking
with various government bodies, which collectively decided that the possibility
for both Jews and Palestinians to build solar systems in the West Bank was
important, according to Mintz, who expressed confidence that the new regulations
would be approved.
“We are using the same grid – the Arabs and the same
Jews are connecting to the IEC. All the cities and all the villages in Judea and
Samaria are connecting to the same electricity producer,” he said, noting that
while the Palestinians have their own electricity distribution companies, they
still share the same grid and electricity.
“All of [the ministers] have
said that the Arabs can also build systems and they can compete in the same
possibilities like the Jewish settlements. And whenever we will get the quota,
they can get also,” Mintz added.
But to Hanna Siniora, co-CEO of the
Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information and resident of east
Jerusalem, it wasn’t so clear that the Palestinians would actually have access
to building the systems.
“Palestinians want to build renewable energy,
but most of the land at the moment is under the administration of Israel’s
defense ministry, Area C,” Siniora said. “We are not allowed to create projects
in Area C.
“Renewable energy is as important to Palestinians as it is to
Israelis, so maybe they should be given an equal chance to do this,” he
Meanwhile, he also stressed that establishing medium-sized
solar fields among the settlement areas would be counterintuitive to any
progress toward achieving a two-state solution.
“This will actually add
to irreversibility of settlements, and instead of having a two-state solution,
we will end up having a bi-national state,” he said. “To build something
permanent in a way is undermining the process of going to the two-state
If a two-state solution were to occur after new solar systems
were constructed in the region, Edelstein said that he had no prediction as to
what would happen to the fields.
“You’re thinking too fast for me – I
think at this stage the question is absolutely hypothetical,” he said. “I
promise you one thing – that there would be at least 10,000 questions of that