In First, Israel Wants to Build Power Plants in Open Areas Using Private Developers

Environmental Protection Ministry and Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel have come out against the plan, saying it could compromise open spaces.

The Beit She'an Valley in northern Israel, where a power plant could potentially be built.
Gil Cohen-Magen

For the first time, private developers will be able to submit plans for power plants in open areas, according to a new ministry proposal to be presented to the government this week.

The Environmental Protection Ministry and Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel have come out against the plan, saying it could compromise open spaces and did not conform to the National Master Plan for energy.

According to the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry plan, Minister Yuval Steinitz would be able to authorize a private developer to present plans for power plants to a ministry committee for approval.

The committee would only approve plans for plants producing electricity with natural gas or renewable energy.

The planning administration in the Finance Ministry would also have to approve the plan, as well as confirming the developer’s permit to use the land – for example, by means of a rental agreement for the land, which would usually be agricultural.

The ministry’s proposal calls for power plants that will produce 25,000 megawatts by 2040.

The goal is to streamline and expedite power-plant construction to meet the expected need for electricity over the next three decades.

“The state aspires to advance power plants that will be selected in a competitive process that will bring down costs to consumers. To this end, a number of power stations must be ensured,” the proposal stated.

The sites suggested for the power plants include Sha’ar Hagai in the Judean Hills, and the Beit She’an Valley and Harod Valley in northern Israel.

According to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the plan goes completely against the master plan for power plants, which has already pinpointed five sites for stations. The environmental organization said the ministry’s plan also puts open spaces at risk.

“The energy economy must be advanced according to national planning and not by point-by-point steps,” said SPNI head Iris Hahn. “Such moves are very problematic publicly and environmentally, because they were not carried out in cooperation with the public and in consideration of all interests.”

The Environmental Protection Ministry said: “The proposed plan could take us all back years, to the crisis mode that was typical of the energy economy.” The ministry added that as part of the organized procedure to allocate land for power plants, it had begun environmental impact reports on a number of locations, including Har Tuv in the Judean Hills and Beit She’an.

The ministry also warned that attempts by developers to reach agreements with landowners would mean major resources would have to be invested. Afterward, it would not be amenable to alternative sites if planning committees suggested them.

The National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry said: “The planning of private power plants by a number of developers will allow planning committees to compare all the alternatives and choose the best one. This will be done with maximum consideration for planning and environmental factors.”