In his first pronouncement as the new environmental protection minister, Gilad Erdan (Likud) issued a detailed objection to the planned coal-fired power plant in Ashkelon on Monday. Born and raised in Ashkelon, Erdan was highly vocal in his objections to the plant while an MK. The ministry has also protested the construction of the plant in the past. Known as Project D, the new plant is scheduled for completion in 2014-15. The Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) is adamant it is needed to meet growing demand and that coal is the cheapest and most reliable source of energy. The plant is to include technologies to reduce emissions. However, Erdan asked the interim cabinet secretary to schedule an urgent discussion on the issue and on freezing the plans for Project D. He also called on National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu) to prepare an updated plan for the energy market within 60 days that takes into account recent changes such as the discovery of natural gas off Israel's coast and the global economic crisis. Erdan listed eight reasons why another coal-fired power plant was unnecessary.
The discovery of large deposits of natural gas at the Tamar site, off Haifa, and the Dalit site, off Hadera, necessitated a reappraisal of the situation, he said.
The financial crisis has already led to a 10 percent decrease in electricity use and that momentum could be used to activate the national conservation campaign to reduce use by 20%.
The emergency plan put in place by the National Infrastructures Ministry last year had passed through planning committees faster than expected, thus putting more megawatts based on natural gas at the availability of the IEC, Erdan wrote.
Erdan urged upgrading and "re-powering" existing plants to produce more electricity rather than building new ones.
He urged the country to adopt energy streamlining measures such as those being advocated worldwide.
The minister argued that even if a coal-fired plant needed to be built at some point, it should be built at a later date, after technological improvements made operation cleaner.
Noting that European countries had set renewable energy goals of 20% by 2020, Erdan called for Israel to do the same.
Finally, Erdan argued that it was counterproductive to build a highly polluting power plant when Israel would most likely have to abide by the post-Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions set to go into effect in 2012.