The Israeli Wind Energy Association accused Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau of “burying” the wind energy industry in favor of solar energy development – in a letter sent to the minister on Tuesday.

“In recent days we were astonished to discover that it is the intention of the Energy and Water Ministry to submit a proposal to convert 300 megawatts that were designated for wind energy to supplement the installations of solar panels,” wrote Gadi Hareli, CEO of the Israeli Wind Energy Association. “The goal of 800 megawatts, which was low to begin with, will drop to 500 megawatts.”

Hareli was responding to a proposal issued last week by Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau to other ministers regarding 2015 renewable energy targets, ahead of a mid- November meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Promoting Renewable Energy.

In order to help bring Israel up to its 10 percent renewables goal for 2020, the Energy and Water Ministry strategized that shifting some of the quotas allocated for wind energy production to solar energy production would be much more sensible.

The astonishment among wind entrepreneurs, however, is due to the fact that there exists “a dangerous trend to bury the wind energy industry in Israel,” an industry that is the cheapest form of renewable energy and provides the most economical use of open space among renewable options, according to Hareli.

The decision to shift to greater solar energy quotas was even more surprising, because the Israel Electric Corporation is currently struggling with its cash flow, and tariffs on electricity generated from solar energy are much higher than those from wind – ranging from 62 to 66 agorot per kilowatt-hour for larger systems and around 80 agorot for small systems, Hareli explained. The IEC, he wrote, is now over NIS 2 billion in debt.

Neighboring Egypt has a goal for 20 percent of its electricity to be supplied from renewable sources by 2020 – as opposed to Israel’s goal of 10% – with 60% of that figure coming from wind and 40% coming from solar and hydroelectric, Hareli said, noting that this is in a country whose sunlight is even stronger than that of Israel.

In addition to financial concerns, the government should be serious about the amount of land space required by solar plants, Hareli argued.

While the inter-ministerial committee plans in the near future to issue calls for proposals for new wind facilities, entrepreneurs previously interested in developing wind plants may now lack the certainty necessary to continue with wind development plans in Israel, due to the fact that the government is intent upon “cutting back and canceling” the industry, he added.

Only a balanced mix of alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind, can bring about a stable electricity grid that functions well both during the day and during the night, according to Hareli.

“The choice to take this unprecedented step of reducing the quotas for wind energy and transferring them to solar energy is a severe blow to Israel – to the possibility of establishing a wind energy before it even began – to the chances of Israel becoming active in the renewable energy field in a wise and efficient form, and to long-term economic and national benefit,” Hareli wrote.

At the moment, a spokeswoman said, the Energy and Water Ministry had no response to the letter.

Daniel Farb, CEO of Leviathan Energy – which predominantly specializes in wind and hydroelectric power – said that the ministry’s proposal to cutback on wind in favor of solar is “not fair” and “not good for the country.”

“All the renewable energies have a place in Israel,” Farb told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

“The purpose of subsidies is to kickstart the development of alternative energies of various kinds.”

Solar received its opportunity first, a fact that Farb said he did not support due to the lower efficiency of solar panels compared to other forms of renewable energy. That being said, however, he noted that wind and water should clearly be the next steps in the country’s renewable development.

“But because they had a later start, the solar industry, which was built up because of higher subsidies and is now successful, wants to take away subsidies from the competition which has not yet had a chance,” Farb said.

Farb agreed with Hareli that wind takes up less horizontal space than solar energy, and that wind energy has the potential to generate up to around 2,500 megawatts of power in small turbines – about one-fifth of Israel’s electricity consumption.

“Wind is even better attuned to the peaks of electricity use than solar, because it peaks from noon to evening in Israel,” Farb said. “Both together hold great promise for solving our energy shortage.”

Both rooftop solar panels and rooftop wind turbines – such as those of his own company – take up no land resources and cause no threat to the environment or nature, Farb stressed. If the government wants developers to be able to thrive, it cannot afford to continue “playing games with guarantees,” he said.

“There is no single solution to the energy crisis,” he said. “By continuing to favor solar, an industry that has matured, it is preventing a total solution.”

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