The Environmental Protection Ministry has warned that Israel's objectives to decrease illness and fatalities from air pollution will remain unattainable unless the nation shifts its energy focus from coal-fired power stations to gas-based alternatives.
"Even with the substantial efforts undertaken in Israel, the reduction of air pollution won't be sufficient unless electricity production from polluting coal is ceased," said Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman. She made this statement on Monday after submitting a report on the successes and failures of implementing the multiyear national plan to prevent and reduce air pollution - part of the Clean Air Law.
As per the report, the pivotal policy measure of transitioning coal-fired units to gas was put on hold by the board of directors of the Israel Electric Corporation in May. Consequently, the intended conversion of the coal-based electricity generation units at the Rutenberg and Orot Rabin power stations to gas has yet to be realized.
While Guy Samet, the ministry's director-general, has expressed his intention to engage with the electric corporation to ascertain the facts, the ministry said this decision would impede Israel's efforts to increase renewable energy integration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Additionally, the report underscored an amendment to the Clean Air Law, passed as part of the Arrangements Law, permitting the operation of outdated, polluting power stations under circumstances of electricity supply risk. This provision extends to coal-fired power stations.
Why Israel needs to eliminate coal power
"The Environmental Protection Ministry believes that it is the government's responsibility to fully implement the policy that coal use cease entirely by early 2026 at the latest," the ministry said in a statement. "Coal is the most polluting fuel and poses a significant health risk to many citizens. Therefore, in the coming years, the economy should transition to gas, a fossil fuel that is less polluting than coal.
"Coal is the most polluting fuel and poses a significant health risk to many citizens. Therefore, in the coming years, the economy should transition to gas, a fossil fuel that is less polluting than coal."Environmental Protection Ministry
"The Electric Corporation board of director's decision will keep Israel heavily reliant on coal and negatively impact public health."
The NIS 615.5 million five-year national plan to reduce air pollution was approved on March 14, 2022. It aims to prioritize the well-being of citizens and the environment.
According to the ministry, the plan outlines a path to improving the quality of life in Israel, encompassing air quality improvement, reducing adverse health impacts, and cost savings for the government.
The fundamental components of the national plan include the establishment of a national target for renewable energy-based electricity generation, the cessation of coal utilization for power generation by 2026, bolstering low-emission zones in urban centers, advocating for clean urban transit through initiatives such as promoting environmentally friendly buses, setting a nationwide objective for emission-free vehicles to usher in a transition to cleaner transportation modes, instituting regulations to curtail emissions originating from power stations, progressing regulatory frameworks to curb air pollution arising from the incineration of agricultural residues, reinforcing air pollution oversight via heightened monitoring and stringent enforcement protocols, among others.
The expectation is that the economic benefit from reducing air pollution is estimated to be about NIS 4 billion. For the expected reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the plan's implementation, an additional benefit of about NIS 12.8 billion is estimated.
The report did highlight several achievements from actions taken in the past year:
- Introducing NIS 60 million in incentives for projects promoting energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Allocating NIS 40 million to local authorities for projects to reduce the urban heat island effect, emphasizing solar shading systems.
- Issuing orders to public transportation companies to purchase only electric buses from 2026 onwards.
- Drafting regulations for agricultural waste management.
- Establishing two new air monitoring stations.