Gov't approves plan for 30% of Israel's energy to be renewable by 2030

Israel's Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel opposed the plan, saying it places a problematic emphasis on natural gas, while setting a low bar compared to other developed countries.

Heliostat mirrors reflect the sky in a field at the construction site of a 240 meter (787 feet) solar-power tower in Israel's southern Negev Desert, February 8, 2016. The world's tallest solar-power tower is being built off a highway in the Negev Desert in southern Israel, its backers hoping the tec (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Heliostat mirrors reflect the sky in a field at the construction site of a 240 meter (787 feet) solar-power tower in Israel's southern Negev Desert, February 8, 2016. The world's tallest solar-power tower is being built off a highway in the Negev Desert in southern Israel, its backers hoping the tec
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Israel's government on Sunday approved a proposal by Energy Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz which aims to produce 30% of the country's electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030, with an emphasis on solar energy.
During the discussion, it was decided that the Energy Ministry will evaluate and update the targets for 2030 by the end of 2024. An intermediate target has been set, aiming to first generate 20% of electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2025.
Steinitz said in a statement that "setting a new target for 30% renewable energy is a real revolution. This means that, in the next decade, we will have to triple the construction of new solar facilities. In addition, I decided that priority would be given toward the construction of infrastructure-linked power plants and the expansion of existing stations." 
Describing his view of the future, Steinitz said that "toward the end of the process, in about seven years, Israel may reach first place in the world in the amount of electricity produced from solar energy. This is a continuation of the policy I have been leading for several years of the transition from coal, oil and polluting fuels to natural gas and renewable energies."
"Thus, the air pollution emitted from about 20 power plants throughout Israel will decrease in a few years by more than 90% – and we, and our children, will breathe cleaner, healthier air," the energy minister added.
Steinitz's prediction of Israel getting to first place in global solar emissions may be a bit ambitious, as the Paris Climate Accords, which Israel signed in 2016 along with 194 other countries, details in its framework a goal of 32% of energy made by renewable sources by the year 2030.
A much more ambitious example is the "Green New Deal," which presidential candidate Joe Biden has said in the past served as "inspiration" for his own climate plans. The deal sets a goal of 100% renewable energy by the same year, 2030. 

ISRAEL'S ENVIRONMENTAL Protection Minister, Gila Gamliel, opposed the plan, saying it places a problematic emphasis on natural gas, while setting a low bar compared to other developed countries.
"Based on the data and analysis conducted by the professionals in my ministry, and in order to put Israel in line with other advanced OECD countries, a target of 40% must be set for 2030. Already today, close to 50% of electricity production from solar sources can be achieved in developed areas," Gamliel said.
"The real significance of this decision is the adoption of a target of 70% gas-generated electricity which is a polluting fossil fuel. This is a false signal to the economy, which undermines the certainty required of entrepreneurs to move to an energy-based economy and use energy from non-polluting renewable sources," the minister continued.
"The proposed target encourages huge economic investments in gas infrastructure, in contrast to all efforts made in Israel and around the world to reduce dependence on energy production from fossil sources that pollute and increase climate change," Gamliel concluded.
According to the Energy Ministry, the move is expected to save the Israeli economy up to NIS 8 billion per year, while the cost to the economy is expected to be about 2-3% of the electricity tariff. The plan aims to lead to a future reduction in energy costs, while promoting a reliable, efficient and sustainable energy-based energy economy.
The decision includes measures aimed at addressing major barriers that prevent the development of renewable energy in Israel, to promote and assist in meeting the target, as well as prioritizing complementary measures such as promoting energy storage, looking at ways to increase public investments into R&D, changing planning priorities and facilitating renewable energy use.
As part of the plan, the Energy Ministry said that it does not intend to approve new authorizations for the construction of power plants for natural gas power generation at the national level, unless it is for the addition of new production units, or replacing or upgrading an existing unit. 
In addition, the government plans to advance the examination of restrictions on natural gas exports in 2021. To this end, the professional team will convene a periodic review of the committee's recommendations for examining government policy on the natural gas economy in Israel, submitting its recommendations to the government before January 2021.
Photovoltaic power – generating electricity directly from sunlight – currently accounts for only 3% of the world's energy needs, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), though the global market for it has been growing rapidly in recent years.