02/23/2011 02:58

Minister vows to lower prices and diversify sources as well as develop periphery.

National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu) said Tuesday that reducing energy costs and using renewable energy programs to develop the periphery are his ministry’s top priorities.

He spoke at the opening of the fourth annual Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Conference in Eilat.

Landau outlined his ministry’s main policy goals for dealing with the issue of renewable energy. According to him, these include: developing an energy policy that relieves the economic burden of the consumer, “advancing the vision of David Ben-Gurion” by pushing for greater development of renewable energy programs in the periphery and reaching the goal of having 10 percent of Israel’s energy come from renewable sources.

Landau added that his ministry would place keeping energy costs low for consumers at the forefront of its priorities, and spoke at length about government initiatives that he has advanced, allocating millions of shekels to help consumers replace older refrigerators with newer, more efficient, models.

“The development of solar energy gives a new horizon to the Negev, the periphery and the State of Israel. Recently we have seen again and again the worrying rise in prosperity gaps between the Center and the periphery in all fields; employment security, education, quality of life and even in health. The government’s role is to ensure that growth takes place not only in the Center, in the ‘state of Tel Aviv,’ but that it will also reach the areas that need it more, in the periphery and the Negev,” the minister said.

Landau also praised a new initiative, first reported on Monday, to open four new solar energy powerplants in Israel. The plants are planned to be built in Mitzpe Ramon, Arad, Ramat Hanegev, and Evrona, all in the South.

The minister added that for Israel, “even in an age of natural gas, there is great importance to developing a broad range of energy sources.”

Landau said that the country’s precarious position in the Middle East means “there is no one to rely on, therefore a diversity of energy sources is necessary, and the prudent use of all means at our disposal is required. It is important to reach a diverse range of energy sources, without causing harm to nature.”

The Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy International Conference and Exhibition is Israel’s foremost annual renewable energy event. The conference focuses on technological innovation and business opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

On Tuesday, thousands of participants were on hand for the event, representing dozens of businesses, startups and governments from across the world. The foreign contingent included at least 15 journalists, invited to the conference by the Foreign Ministry.

Like every year, Israeli innovation was an often mentioned theme. When asked about what the US and Israel can learn from one another in the field of renewable energy, David Sandalow, assistant secretary of the US Department of Energy, told The Jerusalem Post, “We’ve learned a lot from each other in the course of the last couple of decades, and there’s a lot more we can learn. Clean energy is a top priority of President Obama’s and we’re very interested in rapidly accelerating the clean energy economy. Part of this is done by working at home and part of that is working with international partners, and the dynamism of the Israeli entrepreneurial sector is an important asset of the world in the field of clean energy.”

Dr. Dan Arvizu, director and CEO of the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado, told the crowd that “you have outstanding universities here, one of the things I’m most proud of is that some of our top scientists in our country are very much focused on collaborative research… at the Technion Institute, the Weizmann Institute and Ben- Gurion University. I think part of what is compelling to us in this partnership will be the engine for new companies and technologies that will be stationed in this part of the world.”