National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau unveiled the government's new energy efficiency plan on Monday, along with a media campaign aimed at reducing household electricity usage.
The plan's goal is to curb energy consumption to meet the country's "20/20" target of reducing 20% of its energy use by the year 2020.
"The ministry is trying to implement a plan that will alter the country's resource consumption practices," Landau said.
"Israel has a high standard of living, and we want to keep it high. Along with economic growth, we see a rise in population numbers, but our resources are limited," said Landau. "We have to adjust ourselves to the world we live in and the restrictions it sets, and also work to protect nature."
Landau said that the best way to generate energy is by saving it.
"The greenest unit of electricity is that which you don't have to produce - the one you save," said Landau.
The tools at the ministry's disposal to reduce energy consumption include technological solutions, legislative amendments, funding assistance, educational encouragement and standard setting regulations. The plan Landau and his staff presented contained elements of each.
On the technological side, the plan speaks about introducing "smart electricity meters," which will enable homeowners to keep track of their electricity consumption practices better and suggest improvements to help them save. The plan also calls for the widespread replacement of incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient ones.
"If everyone replaces one light bulb, it will save the energy production of half a power plant," said ministry director-general Shaul Tzemach.
The plan calls for legislative work aimed at regulating building maintenance to better conserve energy, and continued legislation on banning the import and sale of electricity-guzzling appliances.
The ministry is also prepared to grant funding to projects that will improve energy efficiency. As part of the effort, the ministry will provide incentives for people who trade in their appliances for more efficient ones. It will also continue to provide grants for energy-saving projects and projects that use sustainable energy.
Along with the Authority for Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses, the ministry will provide grants for small businesses that perform energy-efficiency surveys and act according to the findings.
The ministry also plans to create "Green Israel Bonds" and issue energy securities.
The tool it has decided to emphasize the most is education.
"The ministry plans to introduce a curriculum into schools that will educate the younger generation on how to save electricity," said Tzemach. "Students will undergo 15 hours of classes teaching them to better monitor their consumption, and tips on how to reduce it. We believe that it is through children and families that the biggest gains will be made."
The ministry will also lend its knowledge to large-scale projects aiming to reduce their power consumption.
"We are already doing so with government projects and plan to work closely with the Manufacturers Association to extend our reach," said Tzemach.
Tzemach added that one of the preferred ways to encourage energy-saving was to lead by example. He said the ministry had spent NIS 100,000 to make its own offices more energy-efficient and as a result had seen significant reductions in their electricity costs.
According to Tzemach, the savings will return the investment in less than a year. He said the ministry would also encourage other government offices and institutions to do the same.
Alongside the efficiency plan, ministry officials unveiled a NIS 3 million public awareness campaign. Starting in January, the ministry will start running public service announcements on television, radio and the Web encouraging people to reduce their electricity consumption.
"The idea behind the campaign is to inform people of simple ways they can save electricity. We will provide them with a series of helpful tips and remind them that by reducing electricity usage, they are both saving money and saving the environment," said campaign manager Dafna Zakovitch.
Zakovitch also presented the results of a survey conducted to test the efficacy of such a campaign. According to the findings, 60 percent of Israelis say they could do more to conserve energy, 6% say they are not interested in reducing their consumption and 34% say they can't save any more than they're already saving.
So far, the plan has received favorable responses from environmental organizations. The Israel Energy Forum, an NGO that promotes a sustainable energy economy, said in a press release that it "welcomes the minister's statements on the need for significant energy efficiency-increasing actions and the media campaign calling for electricity saving... The Israel Energy Forum believes that strong measures need to be taken to make Israel more energy-efficient. Otherwise, the Israeli market will pay dearly for fuels, power plants and greenhouse gas emissions."
A spokeswoman for Green Course, an environmental student organization, said that "although we are in strong disagreement with the ministry on the issue of the coal-powered power plant, we welcome the fact that the ministry adopted our conclusions and is raising energy efficiency to a top-level priority. We will back any action that promotes energy-saving."