Ronen Plott next to solar panels on Knesset building.
(photo credit: COURTESY KNESSET)
Advancing the Knesset’s mission to become the greenest parliament in the world, the installation of photovoltaic panels on the house of the legislature’s roof got under way on Sunday.
After a ship filled with 1,406 solar panels arrived to Israel from China over the weekend, Knesset workers began their assembly on Sunday. The panels will ultimately amount to a 4,650-sq.m. solar roof with an installed capacity of 450 kW, according to Dr. Samuel Chayen, sustainability coordinator for the Green Knesset Project.
Integrating and connecting the solar roof is the epicenter of this larger project, a comprehensive program launched in January 2014 that aims to overhaul the parliament into a sustainable building.
Combined with the other energy efficiency measures that have been integrated since the project’s beginning, the solar roof is expected to reduce the Knesset’s electricity bills by one-third by the end of 2015, Chayen said. All in all, the solar roof will be providing for 10 percent of the building’s electricity needs, and should be fully functioning and finetuned by June, he added.
“The big thing about this project is that it’s an educating project and it’s an outreach project,” Chayen told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “That’s the vision of the speaker of the Knesset. What we hope is that other government organizations and municipalities will take the Knesset as a role model and act in the same way.”
The Green Knesset Project is the brainchild of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Knesset director-general Ronen Plott. In addition to the solar roof installation, the project involves a wide range of building upgrades, including an overhaul of the water, air conditioning and lighting systems. Two electric vehicle charging spots have been installed in the Knesset parking lot, and plastic water bottles have been eliminated from committee meetings.
Just two weeks ago, some 35 Knesset employees completed the government’s first internal, comprehensive course on sustainability under the framework of the Green Knesset Project. During the course, the employees studied environmental ethics, environmental law, environmental economics, water, energy and waste.
In November, Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee members replaced their hard-copy documents with a set of new iPads. By doing so, the committee joined the ranks of the Economic Affairs Committee, which launched a pilot program in May to send members primary and secondary legislation copies via electronic means only.
Around the same time, Knesset Secretary Yardena Miller- Horovitz required MKs to send the secretariat queries and accompanying material by e-mail rather than in hard copies, and also began sending committees and MKs reports via e-mail and printing preliminary bills only upon request.
“The dream of the speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, who envisioned the Green Knesset Project, is being realized before our eyes,” Plott said on Sunday. “We, employees of the Knesset, are very proud to realize the vision of the speaker of the Knesset, to transform the Knesset into the greenest parliament in the world.”
Already, the Knesset has signed a number of sustainability partnership agreements with houses of parliament in Africa and Europe, including those in Ethiopia, Kenya, Albania and Romania, Chayen explained.
Agreements are very close to being finalized in Uganda and Rwanda as well, he added.
At home, he expressed confidence that the Green Knesset Project would continue to thrive after the election.
Chayen pointed out that when Edelstein first launched the Green Knesset Project on January 1, 2014, the speaker did so by amending a famous liturgical phrase to “for out of Zion shall go forth the doctrine of green energy.”
“The whole idea is this is an outreach project to promote the idea of sustainability not only with the Israeli government and people, but also with other governments in the world,” Chayen said.