Chanting gripes over megaphones, representatives from various green
organizations gathered opposite the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on
Monday morning during the weekly cabinet meeting, demanding that the government
increase solar energy quotas.
Increased solar quotas, they argue, would
be an effective and easy way to help combat the electricity shortages that the
country is likely to face this summer.
“[Energy and Water Minister Uzi]
Landau is polluting Israel,” protesters chanted in unison.
“Uzi, decide –
are you green, are you black, now is the time to choose.”
the sometimes rhyming Hebrew chants were large posters with headshots of
Netanyahu and Landau fractured down the middle, half of their faces green and
half a smoky gray, with a huge slogan of “Decide!” underneath their
Leading the protest was Eitan Parness of the Renewable Energy
Association and Itamar Steinmetz, the head of the Labor party’s social and
environmental department, who alternately emphasized that having the option to
produce green energy is an element of social justice, and that the government
must take responsibility for the welfare of its people.
cabinet meeting, the ministers were slated to discuss an emergency plan for
dealing with the summer’s anticipated shortages, but the discussion was
postponed for a future week’s session.
“Black electricity – you are
forbidden to choose,” Parness chanted, adding words like “carbon” and “cancer”
to the mix.
Last Wednesday, eight environmental organizations – many of
which were present at the protest – had appealed to Netanyahu, asking that he
promote a solar quota increase as a simple and clean way of helping to bridge
the gaps that might occur this summer. The eight groups were the Society for the
Protection of Nature (SPNI), the Israel Forum for Energy, the Renewable Energy
Association of Israel, Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense),
Life and Environment umbrella group for green organizations, Greenpeace
Mediterranean, Israel Green Building Council and Green Course. Specifically
calling for an increase in solar rooftop allocations, the appeal to Netanyahu
complained that this year’s quotas of 35 megawatts had already been fulfilled in
March, with many applications still outstanding.
The same day,
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) had sent a letter to
Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu) asking him to support a
solar production increase by bringing forward a proposal for government
At the time, the Energy and Water Ministry said that it
received the request to incorporate solar quotas into the proposal and that it
would examine the matter, a statement that the office echoed on Monday as well,
in response to the protests.
“What they are doing is postponing and
delaying the approval of a new governmental decision that would allow us to
build solar rooftops, and this is actually done by malice, and we will oppose
it, of course, and we’ll demonstrate,” Parness told The Jerusalem Post
, on the
sidelines of the protest.
Parness said that he did not “believe a word”
of the ministry’s promises to examine the proposal for a quota increase, as he
had approached them with the idea months ago.
“This industry has lost any
belief it had in this green new horizon. It has actually been beaten, and we’re
suffering tremendously,” Parness added.
“We’re suffering from a bad
policy by the government, a zig-zag.” Steinmetz echoed Parness’s sentiments,
telling the Post that he doubts that the government will actually increase the
quotas for the coming summer, as the government officials “want to do the
minimum that they can.”
As a member of the Labor party, however, he said
he felt the responsibility to continue to convince them otherwise.
Labor party is the social party in Israel,” Steinmetz said.
party that says the country should take care of the people, should be
responsible for the people. Part of it means they need to be responsible for the
health of the people, the air they breathe, and you know, what electricity they
get – this is basic.” Yossi Abramowitz, the president of Arava Power Company,
stood aside his 13-yearold son, joining in the chants.
“The only thing
more embarrassing than firing up diesel generators is the actual blackout – but
it would’ve been prevented if they actually had lifted the solar caps,”
In terms of the financial value of installing solar
rooftop panels, Parness explained to the Post that an average family’s
investment would pay off in about seven to eight years’ time, if it were
receiving about 80 agorot from the Israel Electric Corporation for each kilowatt
installed. If an average-sized family consumes about 9,000 kilowatt-hours of
electricity per year and a photovoltaic panel producing one kilowatt per hour
generates about 1,800 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, then the family
would need an approximately 5-kilowatt system costing them about NIS 60,000,
according to Parness. While this can be a hefty price for some, banks are very
willing to give special loans to people for this process, as they are receiving
a secure income through an IEC contract, he said.
This summer, the state
will have an electricity capacity of about 12,700 megawatts, with an expected
consumption of about 12,000 megawatts – leaving only a 700-megawatt reserve,
which could be problematic if a power station fails, Parness
Although increasing solar quotas in small amounts will not
solve the entire problem, this could help replace the need for an extra
polluting source or two, he added.
“We can replace some of the diesel
generators,” he said, stressing that even 10 more megawatts of solar panels
“It is not to say that if we don’t save the world, don’t do