(photo credit: Courtesy)
Palestine may soon become the newest nation on the planet.
Within half a
decade, it could easily become a leader in renewable energy. Imagine using
“Google Earth” to view Palestine and zooming in on the Tubas region in the
northern West Bank, or the Jericho area, and seeing fields of solar panels
producing electricity for Palestinian consumers. Imagine zooming in on Gaza’s
coastline and seeing rows of large wind turbines providing energy for the
reconstruction of Gaza and the development of new towns, housing projects,
schools and factories. This is not just a empty dream – it is a vision that
could be made real.
Today Palestine is almost 100-percent dependent on
Israel for its electricity. There is a small generating capacity in Gaza, and
almost none in the West Bank. Palestinian planners hope that someday a gas
pipeline will reach the Jenin area from Israel. They also hope they will be able
to exploit the natural gas field off the shores of Gaza. I have cautioned
Palestinian planners that the gas pipeline from the coast to Jenin will probably
take a decade because of the difficulties it will face from Israeli bureaucracy
and public objection. Likewise, with Hamas in control of Gaza and Gilad Schalit
still in captivity, the Gaza gas field will remain undeveloped.
next several years, renewable energy will remain more costly than that produced
from fossil fuels. Israel relies on fossil fuels for its electricity needs; the
Palestinian energy demand is an extra burden on Israeli production, which is
already over-burdened with its own rapidly increasing needs. To meet the latter
demand, and in the name of diversification of energy sources in Israel, talk of
another coal-burning plant is not completely off the agenda, although it is more
likely that another natural gas-burning plant will be constructed.
is incredibly slow in advancing renewables, mainly because the Finance Ministry
continues to place obstacles to progress in this field due to its immediate
higher costs. The boys in the Finance Ministry have a lack of vision regarding
Israel’s potential to lead the world in renewables. They too-quickly dismiss the
non-immediate cost benefits, which are added value to the economy and to the
public’s health, from the exploitation of the country’s abundant natural
Palestinian professionals should be wiser. Palestine’s path to
independence should include as much energy independence as possible. With the
small size of the current Palestinian economy, it is quite possible to advance
both solar and wind energy at a time when the international community is willing
to provide financial support. A whole new vocation can be developed: the
training of young people in the design, development and maintenance of solar
power fields. These young people will find lots of jobs in putting Palestine on
the renewable-energy map. The international community, including the wealthy
Arab Gulf states, can provide soft loans and grants to enable the generation of
at least 300 megawatts (almost 50% of the current needs) from the sun. The same
sun that today provides hot water to almost every home in the West Bank can also
There are several locations in the West Bank where
generating electricity from wind is likely. Wind testing that produces
“bankable” results takes a full year. There is no time to waste – wind tests
should be started immediately. Eventually offshore wind testing should be
conducted along Gaza’s coast and, if proven feasible, wind turbines can generate
hundreds of megawatts of natural electricity for Gaza beyond its beautiful
The Palestinian Authority advanced its ability to govern with
great strides through the building of state institutions. This is the first
prerequisite for forming a state. The rule of law, cooperate governance,
transparency and the accountability of the government to its people are the
basics of economic development. Like Israel, Palestine has almost no natural
resources. Here and there, the engine of economic growth must be human
The development of Palestine’s human resources should be its
No. 1 investment. Following that, economic growth is dependent on infrastructure
– roads, mass transit, access to ports, and communications – and the fuel for
all of that is energy.
Palestine now enjoys the highest per-capita
financial support in modern history. The international community will continue
to provide generous support on the condition that violence does not once again
show its ugly face. The generosity of the world will increase if Palestine
adopts models of development that can be the envy of the rest of the planet.
Imagine if developed countries in the West could start all over and do away with
the polluting industries that poisoned their rivers and air. Imagine if they
could develop clean sources of energy from the start. Palestine
Palestine can be green (and not in the sense of the Hamas
It can set a new standard for the economic development of young
states. It has the human capital: young, educated, motivated and driven people
who want to advance themselves and their country. A green wave can bring a new
spirit of mission and conviction.
It is true that the green revolution
will not resolve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict – that must be done through
negotiations backed and facilitated by the international community. But there is
no reason to wait for full statehood to build a green Palestine.
the beauties of this idea is that it’s not dependent on Israel.
to be good for both sides.
Green energy means energy independence for an
independent Palestine. Once Palestine achieves this, it can speak with its
neighbors (including Israel) about energy interdependence. By that time,
Palestine could and should be a leader in renewable energy.The writer is
co-CEO of IPCRI, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information
(www.ipcri.org), which is advancing renewable energy in Palestine.