Israel Continues to Lag Behind in Green Energy Development

Red tape means just 0.5% of energy comes from renewables

The national infrastructure and interior ministers met this week to discuss ways to overcome the red tape that hinders Israel's lagging renewable energy industry.

Renewable energy projects are stuck largely because of the lack of coordination among the many bodies involved and their failure to reach agreements, the ministers said at their meeting on Wednesday.

A former director general of the National Infrastructure Ministry, Hezi Kugler, said ministries were "burying" the large solar energy projects planned in the south under bureaucracy and foot-dragging. Kugler spoke at a clean-tech industry conference held in Israel a few weeks ago. Ministry officials denied the accusation.

Israel has fallen far behind the renewable energy target set by the government and is lagging well behind global developments. Less than half a percent of Israel's energy production comes from renewable energy, which is generated from naturally replenished resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat.

The target for three years from now is 5 percent. The government failed to carry out large projects for solar energy use in the Arava and the Negev, which are supposed to account for 2.5 percent of power consumption. If the 10 percent renewable energy target set by the government for the end of the decade is to be achieved, power production from renewable energy will have to increase to 20 times its present scope in less than 10 years.

Reducing demand

Another condition for achieving this target is reducing the demand for electricity, following the implementation of various conservation plans sponsored by the Infrastructure Ministry. But this goal is not very achievable due to the absence of funds and a lack of cooperation among the ministries.

The obstacles include the difficulty of obtaining permits for renewable energy projects from the Electricity Authority, the Agriculture Ministry's objection to facilities on farmland and the Israel Lands Administration's stalling in allocating land for projects, officials said.

The ministers decided at the meeting on Wednesday to set up work teams that will outline ways of dealing with the obstacles.

Two large solar projects in the south - near Kibbutz Ashalim and in Timna - are still in preliminary planning stages. The authorities have only recently issued instructions for running a study on the environmental effect of the Ashalim project, which is to produce 250 megawatts of power.

No master plan

Israel has no proper master plan for renewable energy development, and national plans for solar facilities are in their preparation stages. The Infrastructure Ministry said the lack of coordination among the local planning commissions and their unfamiliarity with the issue were causing delays in issuing licenses to small-scale solar energy projects up to 10 megawatts.

The ministry is advancing a biogas plant - producing power by the biological breakdown of organic matter - in Emek Hefer.

In 2009, renewable energy sources accounted for some 18 percent of the global energy supply, a UN report said recently. For the second consecutive year the increased energy from renewables exceeded the increase produced from other power sources (gas, coal and nuclear ). Dozens of countries have set official targets for renewable energy supply ranging from 15 to 25 percent by the end of the decade.

The additional energy from photovoltaic solar plants (converting solar radiation into electricity ) has increased globally 100-fold since the beginning of the decade, the UN report says.