Gov’t enlarges solar energy quotas, including in West Bank

An expansive renewable energy program claiming to save the country NIS 2.5 billion annually received government approval.

Solar power (photo credit: REUTERS)
Solar power
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The cabinet on Wednesday approved an expansive renewable energy program claiming to save the country NIS 2.5 billion annually – reworking production quotas in favor of the solar industry and enabling green energy generation in the West Bank.
The cabinet approval enables the diversion of some 520 megawatts allocated for renewable energy generation in other areas to the photovoltaic (solar) sector, saving the country about NIS 2.5b. annually for the next 20 years. Now that the plans have been authorized after two years of delay, residents of Judea and Samaria will be able to build 30 MW worth of photovoltaic facilities.
Wednesday’s decision follows up on an approval by the Ministerial Committee for Renewable Energy in February, which gave the initial go-ahead to the quota diversions and authorized the state to guarantee the debt of West Bank solar facilities.
“The government’s decision today advances the renewable energy field with a giant step forward,” National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom said.
“By creating a significant and sizable renewable energy market, we can develop and make progress toward achieving the target of 10 percent electricity generation from renewables by 2020.”
An addition of 70 MW to the photovoltaic-solar sector will come from the quota for large wind facilities, a move the Energy Ministry described as necessary due to the environmental and security obstacles associated with building wind infrastructure. An additional 20 MW will come from the small wind technology sector, while another 20 MW will come from the thermo-solar quota. Sixty megawatts of the biogas production quota will be converted into 230 MW worth of photovoltaic generation.
Also approved was an amendment to the conditional license of two planned thermo-solar facilities, which would enable them to generate 180 MW of electricity from photovoltaic sources instead. This conversion alone would save the electricity sector about NIS 1.5b. annually for the next 20 years, the Energy Ministry said.
An additional 30 MW for the Ashalim solar production site south of Beersheba received government approval, through a public-private-partnership (PPP) agreement. The Ashalim site will include two thermo-solar plants and a photovoltaic facility, with a total capacity of 270 MW, according to the Energy Ministry.
A July 2011 cabinet decision established an assortment of quotas for the renewable energy industry, including the 30 MW allocation for constructing medium-sized fields in Judea and Samaria.
In December 2012, the Ministerial Committee for Renewable Energy approved the transfer of 300 MW from the wind energy sector to the photovoltaic industry. The transfer has been delayed for most of the past two years due to an appeal from the Finance Ministry regarding the cost.
Meanwhile, due to the political uncertainty in Judea and Samaria, banks refused to fund projects there. The Ministerial Committee for Renewable Energy therefore determined in February that the state would guarantee the debt owed by developers to financial institutions.
However, Finance Minister Yair Lapid appealed against this clause, causing further delay in the process, according to Globes.
Eitan Parness, CEO of the Green Energy Association of Israel, praised Wednesday’s government decision, describing the approval as “a lifeline for the solar industry.”
“These projects are expected to be established primarily in the periphery and will provide employment and income sources where they are most needed,” Parness said.
Adi Mintz, former CEO of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, expressed satisfaction with the government’s decision.
Judea and Samaria offer some of the best conditions as far as solar and wind resources are concerned, he said.
“As stated in the resolution, in order for these facilities to be built according to conditions similar to those in other places in Israel, the government will guarantee that in the case of political changes that cause the cessation in revenue flow from the facilities, it will pay the balance owed by the developer to the bank,” Mintz explained.
“Despite all the pressures in recent months, we did not compromise on the wording, and in fact, the finance minister prevented for political reasons the development of renewable energy in Israel over the course of a whole year,” Mintz said.