Asians here to collaborate on renewable energy

Korean ambassador: Combine Israeli ideas and technology with our mass production capability.

By
May 8, 2011 03:21
PROF. UZI EVEN (left) of TAU’s Chemistry Faculty

tau conference 311. (photo credit: Sharon Udasin)

 
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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 innovate.

He spoke to a gathering of East Asian and Israeli energy experts in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

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“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 markets.

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 International Relations.

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 to Zhao.

“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 in 2008.

“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 many fields.”

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 conference.

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 said.

“There are perception gaps between China and the outside world,” he told the audience.

“Both need to improve their knowledge of each other.”

Zhou views Jerusalem as an obvious partner in clean energy development, noting that “Israel is good at its technology and at developing solar power.”

During his visit here, Zhou was happy to see that portions of Rehovot’s Weizmann Institute of Science’s solar thermal tower involved a Chinese group.

“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 plant.

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 can provide.

“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 Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“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.

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