Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz appealed to the Yogev Committee members on Tuesday, slamming their decision to reconsider power station filtration systems in their recommendations for electricity market reform.
The Yogev Committee, chaired by businessman Ori Yogev, was tasked with formulating recommendations for solving the problems of the Israeli electricity market and the Israel Electric Corporation specifically – a government- owned company that is some NIS 73 billion in debt.
Describing the Israeli electricity market as “controlled by an inefficient monopoly,” the committee recommended restructuring the country’s electricity market by 2025, and selling 2,500 megawatts worth of power facilities – or 20 percent of Israel’s production capacity – owned by the IEC to private investors.
As part of recommendations, the Yogev Committee advocated reconsidering a project to install scrubbers – air pollution control devices – in chimneys at the Hadera and Ashkelon power stations.
Additionally problematic, according to the Environment Ministry, were the committee’s recommendations that the Project D plant at Ashkelon’s Rutenberg Power Station might benefit from running on coal, and that plans be reconsidered to convert the coal-fired Orot Rabin station in Hadera to run on natural gas.
“You threw an experimental balloon in the air, and I hereby inform you that the balloon has exploded,” Peretz said. “No one should delude himself, as long as I am the environmental protection minister, this will not occur. I inform you that because I am authorized to grant permits for emissions and toxins to factories including those of the IEC, I suggest that the Yogev Committee shelve this portion, because I have no intention to endanger public health and return to old and polluting methods.”
While the investments required to reduce air pollution emitted from the chimneys of the power stations in question would require just a one-time cost of $3b., the installations would save NIS 3.6b. each year due to lower morbidity and mortality rates, Peretz said.
Cutting the projects from the IEC budget would therefore generate a “economic, health and environmental losses,” he said.
“Activities contrary to the permits and polluting the air of citizens is one of the most serious offenses, and I suggest that everyone partaking in this work stop trying to play with the air that we breathe,” Peretz said.
Globes contributed to this report.