According to a new plan by the Energy Ministry, Israel will stop using coal at its power stations in Hadera and Ashkelon, reserving it only for emergencies, by 2030. The coal will be replaced primarily by natural gas, but up to 17 percent will be produced from renewable energy sources, mainly solar energy.
By 2030 it will also be forbidden to import cars that run on gasoline or diesel fuel, which will be replaced by electric cars. At the moment there are only a few hundred electric cars on the roads in Israel, but the ministry is convinced that there will be hundreds of thousands of them by the target year.
The plan was presented by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz at a conference last week. While Steinitz noted that Israel’s primary goal is to assure energy security, he also spoke at length about reducing pollution, referring to the ministry’s plan to “save Israel from polluting energy.”
According to experts, Israel’s known gas reserves can supply its energy needs until 2045. This reliance on gas could be interpreted as the government’s interest in maximizing the economic benefits of natural gas, with the environmental emphasis meant to soften this vision for the public. After all, natural gas is also a biodegradable resource that pollutes the earth. However, there is no doubt that its use will significantly decrease in pollution. Producing a given quantity of electricity with coal at an older production unit, like the ones at the Hadera plant, causes pollution a thousand times higher than when natural gas is used.
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Working to expand the use of electric cars is likely to come with strong opposition from car importers and fuel companies. However the main difficulty in expanding use of these vehicles is being able to match the production of effective infrastructure for the charging the cars’ batteries. Energy Ministry officials have rightly pointed out that Israel has relative advantages favoring the use of electric-powered vehicles, since the country’s size makes it suitable for shorter range cars found in such vehicles. Moreover, fuel prices are high, while the price of electricity is expected to be lowered due to the widespread use of natural gas. Government incentives to set up charging posts could also provide an initial boost to the widespread use of these vehicles.
The target for use of renewable energies set by the ministry is relatively low. There are countries in Europe that have much lower exposure to the sun with more ambitious goals in energy usage. The Environmental Protection Ministry believes that by 2030, 30 percent of electricity production should be based on renewable energies. As of now, only four percent of the country’s electricity is produced using solar or wind energy.