Ministers reject alternative energy bill

Bill aimed at 20% renewable energy.

solar 88 (photo credit: )
solar 88
(photo credit: )
The ministerial committee on legislation voted against a bill on Sunday that would have set a series of goals aimed at producing 20% of Israel's energy from renewable sources by 2030. The bill was sponsored by MKs Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), Dov Henin (Hadash) and Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) and crafted by Greenpeace Israel. According to a Greenpeace cost-benefit analysis, the bill would have added NIS 10 billion to the economy over the next 20 years and created at least 5,000 jobs. The rejection means the bill does not have the support of the government. The three MKs can continue to push for it in the Knesset, but without the support of the governing coalition, its chances of passing are not very high. The bill was already been rejected three weeks ago, but Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) convinced the committee, of which he is a member, to reconsider it on Sunday. It was not clear by press time on what grounds the ministers rejected the bill. However, Ze'ev Gross, head of the Infrastructure Resource Management Division at the National Infrastructures Ministry, explained to The Jerusalem Post why his ministry hadn't supported the bill. "The government's incentivization program for renewable energy is currently through feed-in tariffs," Gross said. A feed-in tariff requires electricity utilities to buy power generated from renewable sources at above-market rates set by the government. "The bill proposed a different system called renewable portfolio standards. These are two different systems which are basically incompatible. "A renewable portfolio system relies on a market trade mechanism - a cap and trade system similar to that for carbon. That is not compatible with a feed-in tariff," Gross said. "Moreover, under the renewable portfolio standards [which set goals for renewable energy], if an energy provider cannot provide the green energy, then the utility has to step in to make up the deficit. But in Israel the Electricity Economy Law has forbidden the Israel Electric Corporation from branching out any further. So, if an independent power provider could not supply the requisite green power, the Electric Corporation would have to, but it wouldn't be able to because if it did it would be violating the law," he said. While the bill was very nice at first glance, "it was written by people who know nothing about the electricity grid. If it had passed, it could have been disastrous," Gross said. A previous cabinet decision has set a goal of getting 10% of the country's energy from renewable sources by 2020. In response to the committee's decision, Horowitz slammed the government's "foolishness." "The government's objection to the renewable energy bill is foolishness which will cost the economy billions," he said in a statement. "This is a horrendous decision which is a certificate of poverty for Israel. The government apparently prefers to deepen its dependence on importing oil and coal from foreign sources, increasing pollution, and going exactly opposite the worldwide trend," he added. Nili Grossman, who runs Greenpeace's energy campaign, also had harsh words for the ministers. "The government of Israel gave precedence to political interests and coalition considerations over the good of the public, air quality and clean energy. It appears that considerations of honor and ego overcame content consideration," she said in a statement.