Israel's Largest Regional Council Suffering Repeat Power Outages Demands State Intervention

Ramat Negev Regional Council appeals to energy minister to force improvement of Israel Electric Corporation's 'Third-World' service.

Yanir Yagna
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Yanir Yagna

The Ramat Negev Regional Council has demanded that Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom investigate repeated power outages in the area, describing the service of the Israel Electric Corporation as "Third-World."

According to the regional council - the largest in Israel, by area, and home to nearly two dozen kibbutzim, moshavim and communal settlements - approximately 600 power outages and voltage drops were recorded at Kibbutz Revivim between July 2012 and February 2013.

Regional council head Shmulik Rifman, in an angry letter to Shalom, said the outages were "causing intolerable damage to industry, businesses, agriculture and tourism ... serious damage to home appliances and great aggravation."

Rifman said the council as well as individual communities in the jurisdiction had submitted dozens of complaints to the IEC, to no avail.

"The monopolistic electric company is providing the Ramat Negev area with Third-World quality power," he wrote. "It seems as if even the residents of the Gaza Strip get more reliable electricity than those of the Negev."

Rifman called on Shalom to intervene personally "and demand that the electric company move immediately to dramatically improve the power supply to the Ramat Negev communities."

David Ben Lulu, the business manager of Kibbutz Revivim, explained that even a power interruption of only a few seconds can wreak havoc with machinery and cause serious damage.

"Every time we had an outage we called them," Ben Lulu said. "We tried to get explanations from the IEC for this phenomenon, but to this day they claim they don’t know the reason for the outages."

In a local plastic injection factory, every such outage stops the machinery and getting it back on line can take two to three hours, Ben Lulu said. One blackout damaged a computer component that regulates the oxygen that goes to the kibbutz fish farms, causing many fish to die. Home appliances and computers have also been affected, he said.

The IEC said a comprehensive, professional evaluation it conducted had concluded that the number of blackouts in the Ramat Negev area were similar to those in the southern district, which has power lines of similar length and high-voltage lines with similar characteristics.

The company said it was in the process of augmenting the power lines in the Ramat Hovav area, adding that it recently completed the installation of one 40-kilometer-long high-voltage line in the south and that another one was planned, "despite the very high cost of this construction and despite the low loads carried by the lines."

Israel Electric Corporation control room, with CEO Ya’akov Rosen, right. Credit: Baz Ratner
Shmuel RifmanCredit: Nir Kafri

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