$524m. in green energy investments may go to W. Bank

Cabinet will vote on allocating millions worth of potential, future renewable energy installations to Israelis living in Judea, Samaria.

By
July 15, 2011 02:22
A solar farm [illustrative]

Solar panels 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The cabinet will vote Sunday on a proposal to allocate over $524 million worth of potential renewable energy investments to Israelis in the West Bank as part of an effort to revamp the country’s green energy policies.

While sources previously told The Jerusalem Post that the latest set of regulations would only shift 10 percent of the medium-sized solar field quotas to Judea and Samaria, a draft proposal distributed by the National Infrastructures Ministry on Thursday revealed that the amendments up for a vote would actually move 10% of the entire renewable energy quota.

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The proposal for the entire country includes a quota of 460 megawatts for large fields, which “will emancipate the market from the stagnation that the Finance Ministry has forced upon us,” the National Infrastructures Ministry said in a statement.

Also included are 110 megawatts for small solar rooftop panels – 20 to be added in 2011, 30 in 2012, 30 in 2013 and 30 in 2014 – as well as 800 megawatts for wind power and 210 for biofuels, according to the document, a collaboration between the National Infrastructures and Environmental Protection ministries. These would all be added to the existing 300 megawatts allotted for medium-sized fields.

Ten percent of each of these caps would be allocated specifically to Judea and Samaria, according to the Infrastructures Ministry. The proposal stems from a compromise brokered by Prof. Eugene Kandel, the prime minister’s chief economic adviser, to find a middle ground among ministers who have been sparring over the country’s renewable energy future.

At approximately $4m. per megawatt, the total investment in West Bank solar installations could reach $384m., and at about $2.2m. per megawatt the total for wind could reach $176m., according to industry figures.

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Biogas numbers are much more difficult to estimate as installations have not been widely use, sources said, and the Public Utility Authority could not be reached for exact data.

“There [in Judea and Samaria] these guys were deprived from their rights and they deserve the same rights as anybody else in this country.

It’s affirmative action,” a spokesman for National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau told the Post on Thursday. “It’s not an issue of right or wrong. It’s an issue of basic human rights.”

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan agreed.

“There doesn’t need to be any discrimination between the residents of Judea and Samaria and the rest of the country’s residents. They’re now receiving the chance to join in the environmental turnaround and to create energy without harming the environment.”

Anyone with Israeli citizenship – Jew or Arab or anything else – would be allowed to make use of the quotas, should the vote pass, Landau’s spokesman said.

But Hanna Siniora, co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, and a resident of east Jerusalem, said the fact that Palestinians without Israeli citizenship would not have access to these same quotas was unjust.

“We are disenfranchised,” he told the Post. “We have 300,000 Palestinians living in east Jerusalem and only 10,000 have Israeli citizenship. Most of the activity will probably be in Area C of the West Bank [under full Israeli control], and none of them [there] have Israeli citizenship except the settlers.”

Outside of east Jerusalem, there are no Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, Siniora said.

“All of us buy electricity from Israel, so the Palestinians of the West Bank are subsidizing the settlements this way, and that is not only unfair, but it’s also really inaccessible,” he said.

Eitan Parness, chairman of the Renewable Energy Association in Israel and head of the Association of Solar Energy Companies, said that while he has no objections to allotting specific amounts of megawatts to the West Bank, it should not be subtracted from the quotas for the rest of the country.

“The logic is quite understandable because to those people who live in West Bank, they are paying for renewables, but they don’t have an equal opportunity to use them, so it makes sense. But again I’m in favor of adding quotas,” he told the Post.

Parness said that with the amount allotted in this proposal, the country will only reach around 6.5% of energy from renewable sources by 2020, falling 3.5 percentage points short of its goal.

“So the government is pulling a trick on us,” he said.

Meanwhile, members of the solar industry displayed mixed feelings about the proposal due to the idea that medium-sized solar fields would receive no additional quotas.

“If the government of Israel were to make the correct and decisive statement that they would be continuing the solar program under the conditions that solar electricity will benefit the national economy above its costs, then developers would continue to invest in over 1,000 megawatts of projects within the medium-field regulations,” Arava Power Company CEO Jon Cohen told the Post. “Solar tariffs will come down drastically in the near future.

Solar energy can reduce the national price of electricity, while offering numerous additional and accepted benefits. It is a terrible error not to ensure that these additional 1,000 megawatts be deployed.”

Yosef Abramowitz, president of the company, said the consumer would get the most benefit from an increased quota for medium fields, and blamed the Finance Ministry for blocking any increase.

“The emperor – the prime minister in this case – is naked and it’s the Finance Ministry that took away his clothing,” Abramowitz told the Post.

“You can go for this compromise, but you will still face the wrath of the Israeli public as electricity prices rise.”

The proposal before the cabinet also includes 50 additional megawatts and NIS 10m. for renewable energy researchers, as well as an instruction to the Israel Electric Corporation to pursue the latest green energy technologies through an internal task team. In addition, the Interior Ministry would be required to remove all statutory barriers that hinder green energy promotion, the document said.

“Part of the [Infrastructures] Ministry’s plan for 2020 is a full and comprehensive program that includes balances between different technologies of renewable energy, to make Israel into a science lab – having research and development in Israel,” the spokesman for Landau said.

Unrelated to the proposal up for vote, the spokesman for the minister told the Post that soon, tariffs on electricity from solar sources will be significantly lower, out of fairness to the consumer and a desire to attract efficient companies to the business.

“Our goal is to lower the tariffs gradually in order to ensure that the most efficient companies only will get into this business,” the minister’s spokesman said, stressing his desire for consumers to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy at the fairest price possible.

As far as Sunday’s proposal goes, however, the minister stressed that it was the optimal solution.

“This decision is not perfect, but it is the best that we could reach, with the agreement and active cooperation of most of the relevant ministries, ensuring the immediate revival of the renewable energy market from a freeze,” Landau said in a statement.

“I place great value on the ability of the industry to instantly add more megawatts to the existing electricity market, which is facing a drought. When I entered my current position I declared my dream of turning the red roof into the vision of the green roof, and I intend to make every effort to realize this.”

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