Israeli Green Groups Call on Government to Reduce Air Pollution

Israel Electric Corporation to use polluting generators to alleviate summer consumption.

The government must give due weight to reducing air pollution as part of its emergency plan to deal with the summer's expected power shortage, green groups and the Environmental Protection Ministry say.

In particular, the ministry wants time limits set on the operation of the large generators that are slated to serve the Israel Electric Corporation as back-up sources of electricity, since they run on "dirty" fuel. It also wants these generators located far from residential areas.

Reading power station in Tel Aviv.
Reading power station in Tel Aviv.Tal Cohen

The expected power shortage over the summer, when demand traditionally peaks, stems from both the ongoing disruption in the supply of natural gas from Egypt and the delay in building a new power plant in the lower Galilee. Some power plants are using diesel fuel as a substitute for natural gas, but diesel is a less efficient fuel. Moreover, not all plants can run on diesel.

The cabinet is soon slated to discuss the emergency power generation plan prepared by the Energy and Water Resources Ministry. The plan, based on recommendations by an interministerial committee, advocates using a variety of alternate power sources, all of which run on relatively dirty fuels.

In particular, it proposes making use of diesel-powered generators owned by government agencies or industrial firms. It also proposes allowing some regular power plants, including the one in Haifa and the Reading plant in Tel Aviv, to run on fuel oil, which would require the Environmental Protection Ministry to lower its air pollution standards.

The ministry, which participated in the interministerial committee's work, is seeking to have limits placed on the use of generators, which emit more pollution than most other power sources do and could thus violate air quality standards in their vicinity.

Specifically, it is demanding that generators located within 500 meters of a residential area, tourist attraction, vacation destination or public building be allowed to run for no more than 100 hours per year. Generators located at distances greater than 500 meters could run for 300 hours per year, it proposes.

In addition, it wants authorization to require the owner to submit an environmental impact statement if it fears a given generator will cause severe pollution.

Finally, the ministry and green groups are demanding that the quota for solar power generation be expanded immediately, to reduce the amount of power that will have to be generated with dirty fuels. The greens - led by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Life & Environment, and the Israel Energy Forum - argue that new rooftop generators capable of producing an additional 70 megawatts of electricity could be approved relatively quickly if the government raised its maximum quota for solar power production.

Just two months ago, they noted, the Electricity Authority approved raising the solar power quota by 35 megawatts, and within a very short time, enough applications had been submitted to exhaust the entire quota.