Energy minister warns of summer blackouts

Landau encourages population to take part in energy-saving efforts such as newly subsidized fluorescent light bulbs.

February 16, 2012 04:16
3 minute read.
Energy, Water Minister Uzi Landau at press confere

Energy, Water Minister Uzi Landau at press conference_390. (photo credit: Gidon Sharon)


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Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau launched a massive informational campaign to save energy, as the country is likely to face electricity blackouts during the summer months.

“The danger of power outages is extremely high in the case of any failure whatsoever at a power plant, and therefore during peak consumption hours,” Landau told journalists at a press conference in Tel Aviv Wednesday. “During the coming summer there will be days when Israel is likely to find itself with a reserve of only 2-3 percent.”

The minister, in part, blamed other government officials for the low reserve, who are outside the realm of the energy market, but initially objected to the establishment of a dual-fueled natural gas and coal power plant in Ashkelon (Takhana D), which could have “on its own prevented the current situation,” according to Landau.

Referring to Takhana D, Landau stressed that the power plant must be backed up by coal, despite objections from the Environmental Protection Ministry. Claiming that the Environment Ministry acts as the more “popular” government body, he said his ministry instead does “what needs to be done.”

In response to Landau’s assessment, the Environmental Protection Ministry criticized the Energy and Water Ministry for failing to systematically plan the future of the country’s electricity supply with a long term, comprehensive vision.

Meanwhile, the Environment Ministry argued that past attempts by the Energy and Water Ministry to design power stations without environmental considerations have also brought about the power scarcity.

As far as Takhana D is concerned, the Environment Ministry came to an agreement with the Energy and Water Ministry over a year ago about an emergency coal backup for the plant, yet the station is still delayed, the ministry said.

Landau, however, stressed at the press conference that the ministry has done its utmost, and continues to do so, to prevent a crisis, by, for example, paving the way for private-electricity production.

There are currently 1,300 megawatts worth of private-electricity production under construction, and 3,400 megawatts more will be coming soon, according to Landau.

In addition to the private electricity supply, the ministry also intends to increase production supply by bringing in more portable generators of 25 megawatts each, for a total of between 200-250 megawatts.

Presently, there are 200 megawatts coming to the Israeli grid from renewable sources, the minister added.

“This isn’t much, but do you know how much there was three years ago? Zero,” Landau said.

Shaul Zemach, ministry director-general, and Smadar Bat Adam, ministry chief of staff presented ministry projects that intend to increase awareness and bring energy savings, such as the newly subsidized fluorescent light-bulb packages available to consumers and the old refrigerator and air-conditioner exchanges, which will be available soon.

The refrigerator-replacement project, an NIS 50 million investment on the ministry’s part, is slated to begin shortly after Passover, while the NIS 10m. project for air-conditioner exchanges will begin in March.

All of these projects, as well as the widespread informational outreach encouraging the public to save electricity, will contribute to Israel’s goals of achieving a 20% reduction in electricity consumption by 2020, the ministry officials agreed.

This summer, however, peak-capacity production will be 12,880 megawatts, while expected demand will be about 12,370 megawatts – leaving only a reserve of about 510 megawatts, according to Yehuda Niv, commissioner of the ministry’s Electricity Authority.

“In order to get through the summer in peace, every one of us must contribute,” Landau said. “Take part in the effort – this is the reason we launched today this massive campaign and will continue with the subject, and we believe that it will convince the public to avoid establishing a power plant. This is in our hands. Together, in joint forces, we can do this.”

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