Ben-Eliezer says energy revolution in full steam

Since 2005, the infrastructures minister has initiated several energy and water projects that could have far-reaching consequences.

By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
March 18, 2009 21:49
2 minute read.
MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.

ben eliezer at post 248.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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During his term as national infrastructures minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and his ministry have laid the foundations for a revolution in Israel's energy market. Since 2005, Ben-Eliezer has initiated several energy and water projects that could have far-reaching consequences if his designated successor, MK Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu), continues in the same path. As Ben-Eliezer pointed out on this week during a summary of his achievements to the Knesset, he has pushed forward projects in both fossil fuel and renewable energy. Israel is now on its way toward producing 40 percent to 50% of its energy from natural gas instead of diesel and oil. While still a fossil fuel, natural gas is considerably cleaner than oil and diesel. Power stations have been refitted to run on gas, and a network of pipes has been started to carry the gas throughout the country. The pipeline project is only halfway done, and its completion now rests with Landau. Ben-Eliezer also fought hard to provide the government incentives to launch an Israeli solar energy market. A household feed-in tariff was passed last year, while a tariff for medium-sized plants and another one for wind power are in the final stages of preparation. The ministry also got a decision designating the Negev and Arava a preferred area for renewable energy passed, as well as a decision to encourage energy efficiency. The Negev and Arava decision still has specifics to be worked out, but it could potentially help provide the massive investment needed to plant solar fields all across the southern desert. The decision also calls for building a 250 MW solar energy plant every year for the next 10 years and calls for 10% of Israel's energy to come from renewable sources by 2020. Ben-Eliezer had originally campaigned for 20% by 2020, but was forced to reduce the goal to get the decision passed. "There is no doubt that this goal of 10% is a compromise, and that with government support we could have aimed for 20%, but this is still a good starting point to aim for," he told the Knesset plenum. Ben-Eliezer regretted not being able to accomplish an electricity-market reform, for which he had pushed hard, as well as the lack of private suppliers of electricity. Despite signing licenses to produce 3,800 MW, just 80 MW are being produced privately right now, he said. Regarding water, he put the desalination project back on track to meet the country's desperate fresh water needs. He also continued building sewage treatment plants, but there are still far too few. Over 100 million cubic meters of waste water are dumped into the sea rather than treated for agricultural use.

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