Environmentalists: Incentivize solar power generation

Many local authorities exploit the current circumstances and provide exorbitant property tax assessments for solar roof installations, say petitioners.

Solar panels (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Solar panels
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel is demanding that government ministers approve regulations regarding property tax exemptions in order to incentivize the widespread installment of solar panels on roofs across Israel.
Without passing regulations on the subject, which is the situation today, those interested in installing panels for electricity face “arbitrariness” in property tax (arnona) collection by their respective local authorities, SPNI representatives argued in a letter on Sunday, to the ministers of finance, interior and national infrastructure, energy and water. Today, many local authorities exploit the current circumstances and provide exorbitant property tax assessments for solar roof installations, the writers claimed.
“This move will help in promoting social justice in the field of solar energy in Israel, because until now most facilities that have been approved have been medium and large fields, built by a number of large corporations on the extensive land areas of rural communities,” the writers said.
The regulations require the signatures of the interior minister and of the finance minister, the SPNI representatives explained.
In the letter, the authors specifically call upon the ministers to authorize regulations already approved last week by the Knesset Finance Committee, chaired by MK Moshe Gafni. These regulations determine the property tax rates that would be permissible for both solar roof and ground installations, allowing for renewed discussions on the subject after five years.
According to the regulations, small rooftop solar installations of up to 200 square meters would be exempt from property taxes, while larger rooftop facilities would be charged on a graduated scale based on their size.
Although doing so had no legal validity, Gafni passed the measures in the Knesset committee in order to generate public pressure on an issue that has been awaiting regulation since 2010. Committee members agreed on the regulations unanimously, with MKs Miki Rosenthal and Erel Margalit from Zionist Union, as well as Orly Levy-Abecassis (Yisrael Beytenu) voicing their support.
“Although there is no approval of the regulations, because the ministers have not yet signed them, this has importance from the public perspective,” Gafni said.
Levy-Abecassis called the current situation “unthinkable,” stressing that after five years, private customers and businesses should not be paying different rates “set arbitrarily by local authorities.”
“It is likely that for the most part, the authorities charge the maximum possible,” she said at last week’s meeting.
Advocating the Finance Committee’s move, the SPNI representatives described the regulations as capable of correcting the gap that exists between photovoltaic facilities established on roofs and on the ground. In addition, the writers explained, establishing exemptions and reasonable tariff rates for the rooftop facilities could serve toward preserving Israel’s land resources, which are becoming increasingly scarce.
“Encouraging the construction of solar roofs by prioritizing property tax rates will enable smaller players – households and apartment buildings, small companies and local authorities – to establish facilities on their roofs and contend with large corporations, so that they will gain income and savings in electricity,” the writers said.