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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) revealed on Monday that his ministry would push for the Negev to be declared a national priority area for creating alternative energy in the near future.
"In the near future, we will propose a government decision to declare the Negev a national priority area for creating alternative energy, and I am considering declaring the Jerusalem area a national priority area for creating alternative energy as well. The issue is being discussed in a committee headed by the director-general of the National Infrastructures Ministry," Ben-Eliezer told the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee.
"In less than 40 years, the oil will disappear and in 60 years the natural gas sources will also disappear. Therefore, renewable energy is at the top of our agenda. By 2020, fuel oil and diesel oil won't be used in Israel," he added.
However, Ben-Eliezer did not answer the main question the committee convened to answer - why Israel was not meeting government-mandated quotas for electricity from renewable energy sources. According to a 1998 government decision, by 2007 Israel was supposed to be producing two percent of its electricity from renewable sources. Right now, that number stands at 0.2%.
Committee chairman Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor), said, "When those goals were set in 1998 they were considered ambitious for their time, but now our awareness has risen, the goals seem reasonable and even insufficient - and we are still very far from them."
Ben-Eliezer assured the committee that "by 2016 we would achieve a goal of 5% of Israel's electricity from alternative sources. And by 2020 - 10% of the electricity market will be produced from alternative energy."
MK Michael Nudelman (Kadima) demanded a proper work plan from the National Infrastructures Ministry on how the goals Ben-Eliezer had outlined would be realized. Ben-Eliezer promised to give the committee such a plan within three months.
Paz-Pines concluded by saying, "The National Infrastructures Ministry should receive government priority, which should be demonstrated in the budget. The government of Israel must take full advantage of solar energy which is a relative advantage of Israel. It is not enough to set goals, there must also be a specific plan with a detailed budget and deadlines. The committee will convene a follow-up meeting on this subject in three months in the hopes of hearing news of significant progress on this issue."
Meanwhile, Paz-Pines has proposed a law which would obligate all new public buildings to be "green buildings." Moreover, by 2010, according to the proposal, all architecture in Israel would have to be "green."
Paz-Pines also proposed reducing the property tax (arnona) on buildings that put in roof gardens. Roof gardens reduce the energy costs to cool the building and help lower concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.
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