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Israeli innovation and foreign need are creating the potential for significant growth in the underdeveloped sector of alternative energy and the government is ready to help.
"The opportunity Israel presents is in the technology side â€¦ it has the ability to produce technology to go out to the world," said Dave Ronn a partner at the Houston-based law firm Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, the eighth-largest law firm in the world.
Peter del Vecchio, a partner at the same firm, said Israel should view itself as the lab for the world. The legal duo were in Israel for the Renewable and Alternative Energy Conference, which took place this week in Tel Aviv.
The lawyers, whose practices focus on energy-related work, see great potential for collaboration between US oil companies and Israeli innovators.
"The oil companies need diversity in their energy sources, they can no longer be beholden to one energy source. The big companies are no longer just oil companies they are energy companies," del Vecchio said. "Alternative energy is no longer a fringe issue in the US, it's an apple pie issue, it's mainstream."
Ronn sees Israel as the ideal place for alternative energy development, citing a dearth of natural resources, lots of brain power and a government that wants to support it as a confluence of factors that creates this environment.
"We need to tie developments of public sector and private initiatives and take advantage of capabilities already existent in Israel," said Hezi Kugler, director general of the Ministry of National Infrastructure.
The private sector is "lagging behind," but the Ministry of National Infrastructure is trying to change this through an ambitious regime of incentive programs to encourage the private sector to enter the market. Through tax breaks and other economic programs, such as allowing higher prices to be paid to producers of electricity using alternative sources, the government hopes to encourage private development.
A further stimulant for energy development in Israel comes from the Ministry of Science, Culture, and Sports.
Dr. Eli Opper, the chief scientist at the ministry, in his address at the conference, asked "How will the Israeli economy benefit from the energy sector?" R&D, he answered, is the only chance that Israel has to prevail in the next generation because it is not excelling in renewable energy developments."
But Opper wants this to change: "The area of energy is so huge, we need to expand."
According to Opper, the way to achieve this is by supporting research and development, which will result in innovation.
"Innovation, he said, is the way to transfer R&D into money."