In an effort to promote the use and production of renewable energy in Israel, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Wednesday he intends to introduce a support tariff for local producers of photovoltaic energy, a newer and more efficient method of harnessing the sun's rays for electricity production. Ben-Eliezer's plan calls for a tariff of NIS 2.04 to be paid by the Israel Electric Company for every kilowatt of photovoltaic energy. The Public Utilities Authority-Electricity will hold a hearing in approximately a month to introduce the new tariff plan to the country's photovoltaic energy producers, which today number very few. Photovoltaic energy (PV) is based on the production of electricity from the sun's rays using photovoltaic cells - essentially metallic wires mounted on conductive glass. These solar cell can produce electricity with similar efficiency as conventional, silicon-based cells, while being much cheaper to produce. "It is my intention to increase the activities of the ministry in the realm of renewable energy in general and solar energy specifically," Ben-Eliezer said in introducing his plan. "Right now we are almost ready to announce a tender for the construction of a solar energy power plant in the Negev and our new plan shows that increased dependence on alternative energy sources is a national priority." According to details of the project, photovoltaic electricity producers who send their electricity into the national grid will be charged less on monthly electricity bills, according to the amount they allocate for the grid. "The IEC will now be counting two types of energy - what you buy from us and what you send," an IEC spokesman told The Jerusalem Post. "In addition to getting paid per kilowatt of production, the electricity that a photovoltaic producer will be charged for will be calculated depending on how much is designated for the national grid. This is a very important plan as governments around the world have been increasingly placing more and more focus on the production of alternative energy." Led by the US and Germany, financial incentives, such as support tariffs for solar-generated electricity, have led to the introduction of large photovoltaic projects in a number of countries. The Infrastructure Ministry intends to run the project for seven years or until photovoltaic energy production reaches 50 megawatts a year, the ministry said. Amnon Shapira, director of the Public Utilities Authority-Electricity, believes that the support tariff will greatly expand the local alternative energy sector. "We are working in a very directed way to achieve growth in the renewable energy market and I am very happy that the government has done its part to help advance this project, which is another link in the promotion of alternative energy here." Separately this week, Ben-Eliezer met with the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Karim Masimov, and the two discussed the possibility of Israel purchasing natural gas from Kazakhstan. On his way home, Ben-Eliezer stopped in Turkey to meet with that country's energy minister, Himi Guler, in an effort to advance negotiations between their two countries on the construction of a natural gas pipeline that would stretch from Turkey to Israel. Additionally, the two discussed the possibility of a joint Israeli-Turkish project to drill for oil in the Black Sea.