South Korean Ambassador Young-sam Ma on Thursday encouraged Israeli and Korean
cooperation on renewable energy resource development, stressing the similarities
between the countries in terms of both fossil fuel dependency and a desire to
He spoke to a gathering of East Asian and Israeli energy
experts in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
“You are leading the future energy
market,” Ma told the predominantly Israeli audience.
“You do have ideas
and technologies, but you do not have a mass production capability. Who has it?
We have it,” he said. “My government is very committed to renewable energy
policy. Is cooperation possible? Yes.”
Ma was speaking at a conference on
“East Asia’s Energy Security: Strategies, Policies and the Middle East,” hosted
by the Confucius Institute of Tel Aviv University’s East Asian Studies
Department and the Center for Renewable Energy of the university’s Porter School
of Environmental Studies.
Among the topics discussed were China’s,
Japan’s and Korea’s energy policies; energy cooperation between Asian and Middle
Eastern countries; dependency on Persian Gulf oil; energy security; and the
implications of nuclear energy for the East Asian and Middle Eastern
All the visiting speakers emphasized the vital importance of
maintaining strong relationships with Middle Eastern countries in order to
satisfy the everincreasing energy needs of the East Asian nations in the
cleanest way possible.
Pointing to a picture of South Korean President
Lee Myungbak shaking hands with President Shimon Peres in March 2010, Ma said,
“They had a very good talk and had an agreement to have much more collaboration
in energy field.”
Electricity in China, Japan and Korea is still mostly
produced using oil and coal, and for oil these countries rely heavily upon
Israel’s oil-rich neighbors.
“Most of us depend on the Middle East for
energy,” said Dr.
Hongtu Zhao, of the China Institutes of Contemporary
As part of a presentation on Beijing’s efforts
to meet its escalating oil needs, Prof. Yitzhak Shichor of the University of
Haifa’s Department of Asian Studies spoke about several oil pipeline systems
that China is considering building, to bypass “choke points” in its current
lines that run through the sea.
China continues to depend heavily on oil
imports, though in recent years the country has been reforming its energy
policies and pioneering efforts to develop renewable energy sources, according
“Our clean energy development is probably the fastest in the
world,” he said, saying his nation’s solar photovoltaic capacity, the process of
turning light into energy, jumped from 10 megawatts in 2000 to 2,500 megawatts
“Our national package for clean energy is 16 percent by 2020 and
20-30% by 2030,” Zhao said.
Dr. Reiji Takeishi of Tokyo International
University also told the Post that cooperation with Israel is crucial to his
country’s development of renewable energy sources.
“It has already
started – particularly in photovoltaics,” he said.
“We can cooperate in
But most of this solar innovation is not powering Chinese
plants – rather, the panels massproduced in China are sold to the rest of the
world, something that Zhao feels should change.
“We haven’t used much
solar energy yet, because it’s expensive.
We still do not have such a
high standard of living,” he told The Jerusalem Post after the
Key to developing China’s renewable energy system is the
country’s now “more open and competitive” domestic market, as well as increased
international cooperation – particularly with Japan, the US and Europe, Zhou
“There are perception gaps between China and the outside world,” he
told the audience.
“Both need to improve their knowledge of each
Zhou views Jerusalem as an obvious partner in clean energy
development, noting that “Israel is good at its technology and at developing
During his visit here, Zhou was happy to see that portions
of Rehovot’s Weizmann Institute of Science’s solar thermal tower involved a
“We have quite a big potential between Israeli companies
and Chinese companies,” he told the Post.
Takeishi discussed Japan’s
recovery after the massive earthquake and tsunami that toppled its power
stations in March – with particular damage occurring to the Fukushima nuclear
Despite the accident, experts maintained that global nuclear
energy development should continue, as it is far less dangerous and polluting
than burning fossil fuels.
“It’s not surprising that the fastest growth
for nuclear energy is projected to be in Asia,” said Prof. Nick Butler, of the
Policy Institute at King’s College in London, who chaired the panel on the
implications of nuclear energy for the Middle East and East Asia. “Most of the
growth in electricity demand is in Asia. I saw one figure that China is aiming
to add over the next 20 years the equivalent to the entire current power
generation of the United States.”
Although nuclear energy involves “a
high capital cost” and “there is a question of nuclear waste,” Butler said at
this time there is no reliable, clean substitute for the energy nuclear plants
“The initial response to the tragedy in Japan has been
limited,” he said. “There hasn’t been much of a retreat from nuclear power,
except in Germany.”
“The world has come to a conclusion that the future
demand is high enough to ensure that renewable energies and other sources may
not be sufficient to provide for this demand,” agreed Eli Stern, head of the
Center for Risk Analysis at the Gertner Institute of the Sheba Medical Center at
Tel Hashomer. “To bridge the gap the only possibility that has been considered
is of course nuclear power plants.”
Yet the development of nuclear power
should not be continued without taking into consideration lessons learned from
the Fukushima disaster, including the need for reliable backup systems and a
better location for nuclear waste, Stern said.
The panelists did,
however, rather unanimously concur that nuclear energy would not be so practical
for Israel at this time – even if the country signed the Nuclear
“The area is very small in Israel. I don’t
recommend it,” Takeishi said. “Now Israel has discovered a huge gas basin [off
Haifa], so that must be utilized.
And the volume is enough for 30 or 40
years” – natural gas that he said should only be used domestically.