France's Veolia Environment, the global leader in environmental services, said Monday it will invest $1 billion in Israel over the next five years in an effort to expand its activities in the country and double current investments. "Between 2010 and 2013 the group's target in Israel is to generate a turnover of NIS 5b. from the group's current turnover in Israel of NIS 1b.," said Uri Starkman, president of Veolia Environment Israel. "At the same time, the number of employees is expected to grow from the current 1,700 to 8,000." Veolia Environment Israel was established as part of the local investment strategy and will be structured into four divisions: Veolia Water, Veolia Environmental Services, Veolia Energy and Veolia Transportation. Veolia Environment began its operations in Israel in 1993, which include the Ashkelon desalination plant. According to Starkman, investment into future projects will include the establishment of power stations operated by natural gas. Veolia Environment Israel's energy division, Dalkia, meanwhile, is expected to take part in the government's energy savings tender for hospitals. Other projects include light railway lines in additional cities across the country; Veolia Transport already has won the tender to operate the Jerusalem Light Railway, which is expected to commence in 2009. Recently, Dalkia signed a cooperation agreement with the Israel Electric Company to provide electricity services for the Jerusalem Light Railway. In 2001, Veolia Water, the water division of Veolia Environment, and its Israeli partners, won the government tender for the Ashkelon desalination plant, signing a 25-year contract. With a daily production capacity of 320,000 cubic meters of drinking water, which is 108 million cubic meters a year, it is the world's largest desalination plant using reverse osmosis technology. The consortium's total cumulative sales for the term of the contract is expected to be around â‚¬.1.5b., of which total cumulative sales of â‚¬400m. will be attributable to Veolia Water. In addition, Veolia Environmental Services, is seeking to take a central part in the privatization and outsourcing of water and waste management services for local authorities. "We very much believe in the importance of proper waste management of households as it has become the norm in many western European countries," said Starkman. "In Israel we are in the process of launching pilot projects in waste management education in cooperation with local authorities." 'Time for cleantech is ripe' With spiraling oil prices and threats to the environment, the market for clean energy and other clean technologies is growing fast. "The recent rise in energy prices, while taking into account projections that US oil prices could hit $80 a barrel over the next year, have made the time for investment of venture risk capital into cleantech ripe," said Dr. Orna Berry, chairman of the Israel Venture Association and Venture Partner of Gemini Israel Funds, at the Environment 2020 conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. "The era of easy oil is over, increasing the need for renewable energy sources, which in turn is creating opportunities for alternative energy investment." Investors and entrepreneurs alike are increasingly attracted to the cleantech markets as a result of the growing demand for energy and pure water in developing nations, the need in developed countries to upgrade aging water and energy infrastructures and the growing awareness of the environmental effects of emissions and industrial processes.