Photo Credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90
The Halutziot 55 megawatt solar power plant established by the families of Gush Katif exiles in southern Israel.

The Israeli government will discuss on Sunday the proposal of Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) to set the year 2030 as a target date on which 30% of the country’s electricity production will be based on renewable energy, Makor Rishon reported on Friday.

Currently, Israel produces only about 9% of its electricity from natural sources such as solar, wind, and water.

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The Energy Ministry’s proposal includes a plan to encourage the achievement of the target by extending exemptions from property-improvement taxes to entrepreneurs looking to set up photovoltaic stations on rooftops or in fish ponds and reservoirs.

The Energy Ministry is also initiating legislation that will force the installation of a solar panel on half of the roof area of ​​any building whose roof area exceeds 750 square meters.

At the same time, the state will also stop the construction of new gas-powered electricity plants. Instead, the state will expand production capabilities at existing gas-powered plants, as well as increase the amount of natural gas that may be exported abroad.

Sources in the Energy Ministry estimate that the new law would eliminate the plan to establish a huge power plant with the capacity of up to 1,300 megawatts in an area of about 70 acres in the Sharon—where Israel’s most affluent bedroom communities can be found—to the tune of NIS 3 billion ($890 billion) – to be built by Reindeer Energy.

Five local municipalities near the site of the planned power mega-plant, led by Kfar Saba, filed a petition in August requesting a halt on the construction plans, saying it would endanger the health of the nearby population.

Plans for the construction of a power plant near Rosh HaAyin and Kafr Qassem, which have also been met by local opposition, are also expected to change in light of the new goals announced by the government.

Since Israel has switched to producing electricity mainly from natural gas, the use of coal in the country’s electric economy has decreased by about 60%. As part of the government’s commitment to rely more on electricity generation from solar energy and gas-fired power plants, the routine use of coal for the electricity sector will be completely stopped.

According to the Energy Ministry, meeting government targets for clean energy in the next decade will reduce 90% of local air pollution from electricity generation.

The proposed new law will probably upgrade the low target to which Israel committed in the Paris Agreement in 2015, which stood at a measly 17% of clean energy by 2030.

According to the Energy Ministry’s plan, the volume of solar electricity production will reach 80% of the total electricity produced in Israel during peak hours. Excess electricity will be stored in a variety of batteries.

The total cost of the program is estimated at NIS 80 billion ($24 billion) over a decade, half of it in erecting production facilities, and the rest in storage facilities, electricity network development, and related investments.

It is not yet clear yet how the proposed development costs would affect electricity costs for consumers, but the ministry estimates that the benefit to the economy could amount to about NIS 8 billion ($2.4 billion) a year and that the price of electricity would continue to fall.

About 90% of the renewable energy that will be generated, according to the government’s target figures, would be from solar energy – the most available renewable resource in Israel – while power generated by wind and water will constitute about 10%.

Due to the risk in choosing to generate electricity by relying on the forces of nature, Israel is promoting a project to lay an underwater power line to connect with Europe for emergency backup. The cable is expected to stretch from Israel to Cyprus, and from there to Crete and Greece.

According to Energy Minister Steinitz, the alternative line would support “our ability to increase reliance on solar energy through the European backup for the system on rainy days and in the evenings.”

The government has been criticized harshly recently by the State Comptroller for failing to properly advance targets in the field of renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.