Despite the uncertainty the Treasury has generated for the renewable energy
sector, the Arava Power Company on Tuesday celebrated the start of construction
of the first solar field in Israel.
The gala event at Kibbutz Ketura took
place as part of the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Conference, which began
Tuesday and runs until Thursday.
The 4.9 megawatt (MW) field at the
kibbutz will be the country’s first mediumsized field when it is completed in
Arava Power has been working towards this first milestone since 2006
and has plans to create medium and large-sized fields on kibbutz land all over
the Negev and Arava. The 80 dunam field will cost NIS100m. to build.
medium-sized field is one that produces between to kilowatts and five
National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau, who attended the
ceremony, remarked that it was no small achievement to have hurdled all of the
bureaucratic obstacles to reach the actual construction phase.
the privilege of being able to remember that a year ago, there was nothing
here,” he said standing in the field alongside Ketura, which will soon be dotted
with solar panels, “and now we can see real development.”
achievement is to have overcome the Israeli bureaucracy. If you did that, then
you’ll be able to handle anything.
My ministry will do everything it can
to continue and promote the vision of Ben-Gurion. We need to do what we can,” he
In a veiled reference to the Finance Ministry, Landau added,
“This is not just economics, but rather historical justice of the Zionist
enterprise. My ministry has assisted this project until now and will continue to
The Finance Ministry recently demanded a reassessment of the
costs of power generation from renewable energy, citing a formula that they
claimed made any feed-in tariff above NIS 0.40 per kilowatt hour too high. All
of the feed-in tariffs that have been set so far exceed that number, going up to
NIS 1.49 per kilowatt hour.
A feed-in tariff is how much the government
will pay for each kilowatt hour generated.
Contracts are usually set for
20 or 25 years. Power generation from coal costs about NIS 0.28 per kilowatt
hour, according to the Finance Ministry, and residents pay about NIS 0.50 per
It is as yet unclear what long-term effect the Treasury’s
call will have on government policy and on the market. One immediate effect,
however, was an effective freeze on licenses to build large
Licenses for medium-sized fields, however, will continue to be
granted, and, in fact, the Public Utilities Authority – Electricity said Tuesday
that it had granted another 30. So far, PUA has granted 86 licenses for 138 MW –
46% of the 300 MW quota it has set for solar power. PUA also said 674 requests
for licenses had been received.
To date, the PUA has granted licenses for
517 MW of renewable energy. The interim goal by 2014 is 1,550 MW. Of the
licensed 517 MW, half are set to come from solar power and the rest from wind,
bio-gas, biomass and hydro installations.
The National Infrastructures
Ministry and the Israel Lands Authority also announced this week that they would
be publishing land tenders for solar fields in the Negev area.
Ketura on Tuesday, David Rosenblatt, one of the founders of Arava Power,
criticized the government’s quota policy.
“We are at a critical moment in
the development of the solar industry in Israel.
We started in 2006 when
just one company was active in the field. Now there are over a hundred
companies. The problem is that the quota is too small.
articulate a policy that encourages growth in the industry. The EU has set a
goal of 20% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. Israel has
set a goal of 10% by 2020 but, right now, it’s talking about reducing the
Instead of moving forward, the country is moving backwards, and
therefore this is a critical moment,” he declared.
National Infrastructures Ministry succeeded in garnering approval for three new
regulations that will save electricity. The three new regulations restrict the
import and sale of electricity guzzling TV tuners, appliances with a standby
function, and inefficient light bulbs. The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee
approved all three on Tuesday.
According to the ministry, TV tuners
utilize one billion kilowatt hours a year. By 2020, via the new regulations, the
ministry expects savings of 700 million kilowatt hours.
regulations for standby functions, five billion kilowatt hours a year would be
used by machines on standby by 2020. With the regulations, 1.5 billion kilowatt
hours a year will be saved by 2020.
The final regulation prohibits the
sale of the old-style incandescent light bulbs and halogen bulbs over 60 watts.
Europe has already outlawed such bulbs.
The regulations are part of the
ministry’s national energy efficiency plan – the goal of which is to reduce
demand by 20% by 2020. Electricity generation is stretched very thin in
summertime, while demand continues to rise by about 4% a year.