Knesset panel chair blames ministry squabbles for lag in gas flow to industry

Labor MK Braverman slammed the Economy and the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water ministries for inhibiting progress on the subject.

Site of planned natural gas plant in Be'er Tuviyah 370 (photo credit: Sharon Udasin)
Site of planned natural gas plant in Be'er Tuviyah 370
(photo credit: Sharon Udasin)
Emphasizing the need to supply the industrial sector with natural gas, Economic Affairs Committee chairman Avishay Braverman (Labor) slammed both the Economy and the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water ministries on Monday for inhibiting progress on the subject.
“We want to encourage industry, and we destroy it because there is no governance,” Braverman said. “Industry is the last engine left for us and it is going backwards. We thought that natural gas would give us a push, but because the National Infrastructure and Energy Ministry and the Economy Ministry are throwing the responsibility on each other, the cheapest and cleanest source of energy – natural gas – is not being utilized in industry.”
Braverman was addressing industry stakeholders, ministry representatives and Knesset members on Monday, during an Economic Affairs Committee discussion on the removal of obstacles to the industrial sector’s development. Committee members and participants particularly discussed questions about oversight responsibility over natural gas installations in the industrial plants, and the delays such controversy has brought in converting many factories to running on this resource.
Doron Ezra, the CEO of gas-fired power plant developer Edeltech, stressed that his company has two power plants in Ramat Hovav and Ashdod, in which more than NIS 1 billion has been invested. Hundreds of his employees are waiting for government delays to conclude so that the plants can function properly on gas, he explained.
“This is unreasonable,” Ezra said.
“Decide. They have made changes under the table without understanding the consequences. It is very urgent to decide. Ambiguity hurts the economy and the environment.”
As far as the Economy Ministry is concerned, Varda Edwards, of the work supervision division, stressed that her ministry is responsible for the safety of employees in factories, but that factories rely on permits from other ministries for building, electricity and hazardous materials safety. Natural gas and all of the safety mechanisms required for its implementation, she said, is the responsibility of the Energy Ministry.
Constantine Blyuz, chief economist of the Energy Ministry’s Natural Gas Authority, meanwhile explained that although one-third of Israel’s energy needs are supplied by natural gas, bringing the resource to industry is not always simple. Electricity prices are falling and many industrial plants run directly on electricity from the grid, while others rely on steam, he continued.
“Industry also needs to cooperate,” Blyuz said. “Only 10 percent of the manufacturers have signed up now for natural gas purchase agreements.”
In response, Joseph Paritzky, a former energy minister, said that many manufacturers have not signed such agreements due to the requirement to commit to a certain quantity of gas, which prevents smaller enterprises from being able to participate.
While debate over which authority is responsible for the conversion of the factories from expensive liquid petroleum gas and fuel oils to gas continued, all parties agreed that legislation dedicated to this resource transition is necessary, according to the committee’s spokeswoman. The committee ordered the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to deliberate in the coming days on formulating a government position regarding the division of ministry powers regarding gas flow to industry.
In addition, Braverman added that he would consider submitting a private bill on the subject.
Following the committee meeting, an Energy Ministry spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post that “as initiated by the ministry and was announced to the committee, we are requesting the approval of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation already at its next meeting in order to have enough time to implement the required amendments during the present session of the Knesset.”