For Jorge Junquera, witnessing Israel’s energy diversification process in action
in many ways mirrors the cleantech expansion currently taking off in Puerto
“There are a lot of similarities even though our motivations for
diversifying are somewhat different,” Junquera, advisor to the president and
senior vice president at the Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico, told
The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
“Over there we are in an economic
recession and we are really into reinventing ourselves to get out of the rut.
And energy has become the single largest roadblock to economic
A cohort of top energy experts from various parts of the
United States are traveling Israel this week to explore potential collaborations
with their Israeli counterparts, in a tour organized by Project Interchange, an
educational arm of the American Jewish Committee.
During their time in
Israel, the delegates are visiting with various energy companies and academics
to learn about Israeli technologies – particularly exploring those in the
cleantech and renewable energy arena, such as solar and electric vehicle
In addition to Junquera, the delegates include Mark
Brownstein, chief counsel for the Energy Program at the Environmental Defense
Fund; Scott N. Paul, founding executive director of Alliance for American
Manufacturing; Brian Wynne, president of the Washington, DC-based Electric Drive
Transportation Association; Stephen Walz, director of energy planning at the
Northern Virginia Regional Commission; Tyler Alten, director of energy
management and strategic development at Greener by Design, LLC; Kenny Esser,
senior associate at Gabel Associates; and Tom Wolf, executive director at the
Energy Council of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
Some stops along the
way have already included Ben-Gurion Univeristy’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for
Desert Research at Sde Boker, BrightSource Energy’s Solar Thermal Development
Center in Dimona and the Ashkelon water desalination plant at Ashkelon. Next
door, the delegation will also be visiting the first planned future Palestinian
city of Rawabi, as well as Ramallah, where they will meet the former acting
director-general of the Palestinian Environment Ministry.
have also have been meeting with various experts on political and strategic
issues facing Israel and are learning about the situation of the Negev Beduin
Junquera is very involved with the implementation of the
governor of Puerto Rico’s policy on energy, which like Israel, has increasingly
become to diversify the territory’s energy sources.
“We have the first
large-scale photovoltaic farm coming online this July and we have two wind farms
under construction, one of which should be coming online in October or
November,” Junquera said.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico is also aiming to switch
many of its oil-fired plants to natural gas, and has a goal of powering the
territory by 15 percent renewable sources by the year 2020, Junquera
He was happy to see that Israel, too, is “diversifying from
oil into gas.” Junquera was particularly interested in Israel’s Liquefied
Natural Gas (LNG) offshore buoy system that the country is now developing, as
Puerto Rico is doing the same thing.
He did note, however, that after
seeing the brilliant desert sunlight here, he is surprised that solar energy has
not been adopted more speedily.
After meeting with Prof. Pedro Berliner,
director of the Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, on Wednesday morning,
Junquera said he was excited to try to link the University of Puerto Rico with
Ben-Gurion University for potential future collaborations. Puerto Rico at the
moment has a pipeline of 1 gigawatt worth of signed solar contracts, most of
which are photovoltaic and include a government-sponsored green energy farm as
well as residential and commercial photovoltaic projects, according to
“We are trying as many routes as possible, to increase
distributed energy in that way,” he said.
From several thousand miles
north, Stephen Walz, Northern Virginia Regional Commission’s director of energy
planning, told the Post that his purpose in attending the trip was likewise “to
build partnerships,” as Virginia already has many such energy collaborations
with Europe and Asia. Welz was particularly interested in products that the
company Amdocs was developing for consumer interactions with utility companies,
as well as the work going on at Ben-Gurion University to transform liquid gas
into useable energy.
“It would be great to build bridges,” Walz said of
Ben-Gurion University, noting that in northern Virginia researchers are
performing similar work.
Meanwhile, he said that the emerging hitech
sector in northern Virginia could provide a great partner to the similar sector
in Tel Aviv.
“But you can do things a little bit easier, smaller here
sometimes because you have a smaller market,” Walz said. “Every place has its
challenges. And Israel because of the entrepreneurial spirit here, this is a
place where there will be a lot of growth of these types of
From just a bit north of Walz, Wynne said he was impressed
with how the electric vehicle market was beginning to emerge in
“The key to success for vehicles that plug into the grid is
giving consumers a diversity of options and that’s what we saw at Better Place,”
he said, noting that it is essential to have both the option of a home and
outside charging system.
Crucial to the development of electric vehicles
in both the United States and Israel is ridding both countries from their
dependence on petroleum, according to Wynne.
“It’s really a monopoly fuel
and I think there’s a better awareness here surprisingly about what the
geopolitical implications of what that political dependence are,” he
Wynne, who served as chairman of the trip and was in part
responsible for selecting the other travelers, said that he and his colleagues
are “learning a great deal” while in Israel, and the experience has been
“Israel is obviously a great microcosm of many
energy challenges and there is some terrific innovation going on here that will
have a big impact on the world,” he added.