Photo Credit: Shai/FLASH90; Karine Elharrar's Twitter
Energy Minister Karine Elharrar at a renewable energy conference in Eilat, Dec. 15, 2021.

Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar (Yesh Atid) on Wednesday rejected the recommendations of the committee that examined Israel’s natural gas exports and announced that in the coming year she does not plan to deal at all with the issue of expanding Israeli gas exports. Speaking at a conference on renewable energies in Eilat, Minister Elharrar announced that “in the coming year, we will focus on the future, on green electricity, on energy efficiency, and on renewable energies – and while we’re doing this, we’ll put aside dealing with expanding the development of natural gas, which is, as is well known, a transitional source of fuel.”

“In the coming year, the Energy Ministry will not adopt the conclusions of the report examining the natural gas policy, and will not embark on the fourth phase of granting licenses for natural gas explorations,” the minister said.

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Last October, a committee chaired by the former director-general of the Energy Ministry, Udi Adiri, issued its recommendations, namely to expand the search for gas in Israel and to allow the new reservoirs that would be discovered to export their gas without restriction. The Adiri committee also recommended allowing the existing gas fields Tamar and Leviathan to export 42% of their gas.

Adiri counseled Minister Elharrar in her first few months in office and left about a month and a half ago. His committee’s recommendations provoked strong opposition from Israel’s green organizations who argued that the search for new gas reserves would reduce the incentive to promote green energy since the Israeli and global energy economy will be able to rely on natural gas.

The Adiri committee’s recommendations in October caused a feud between Minister Elharar and the Minister of Environmental Protection, Tamar Zandberg, whose ministry objects to continue gas exploration in Israel. On Wednesday, though, Zandberg congratulated Elharar: “Congratulations to my friend, the Minister of Energy, on the important statement that she will not adopt the conclusions of the policy review report for the gas economy, and will stop new gas exploration in the coming year.”

“With a commitment to zero emissions by 2050, Israel has stated its commitment to ending its dependence on fossil fuels – including gas,” Zandberg said. “We are moving towards a new era based on renewable energies, and stopping the search for new gas reservoirs is a significant step on the way there.”

According to the US Dept. of Energy, when refined and burned, natural gas can produce 25–30% less carbon dioxide than oil, and 40–45% less than coal. It can also produce potentially fewer toxic pollutants than other hydrocarbon fuels. However, compared to other major fossil fuels, natural gas causes more emissions in relative terms during the production and transportation of the fuel, meaning that the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions are about 47 % higher than the direct emissions from the site of consumption.

An excited Minister Elharrar told her audience in Eilat, “We will use the coming year for a series of moves that will advance the transition to renewable energies. We will establish a renewable energy division in the ministry that will receive the most attention and resources, we will promote the national plan for energy efficiency that was approved by the government recently at a cost of about one billion shekels, we will invest in research and development, allocate grants for the promotion of clean energy and significant technological developments, and remove barriers facing entrepreneurs.”

Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy is a public benefit company, owned by the kibbutzim, JNF, and other local entities in Israel. Working with the Eilat municipality, the Eilot Council, and government ministries, the company already produces 70% of the daytime energy demand for the Eilat region, and by 2025 expects to produce 100% of the area’s energy from renewable sources 24/7.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.