07/18/2011 04:31

Ten percent or $660.8m. of systems slated for W. Bank; green organizations praise decision, but say much more must be done.
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After postponing a vote for two weeks on significant amendments to the current renewable energy regulations, the cabinet approved on Sunday a set of new measures that will allow for the investment of over $5.048 billion in future renewable installations, with 10 percent of these systems designated specifically for the West Bank.

Within the new regulations, the government will institute a quota of 460 megawatts for large solar fields, an additional 110 megawatts for small solar rooftop panels – 20 to be added in 2011, 30 in 2012, 30 in 2013 and 30 in 2014 – as well as 800 megawatts for wind power and 210 for biofuels, with no new additions to the current 300 megawatts allotted for medium-sized solar fields. Meanwhile, 10% of each of these caps – including from the original quota on medium fields – will be allocated specifically to Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria, in a gesture that a spokesman for National Infrastructures Minister Dr. Uzi Landau had likened to “affirmative action” on Thursday.

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“I am proud that the government decided in favor of committing to the gradual production of energy from clean renewable sources,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan in a statement. “The decision will contribute to the reduction of air pollution, to the reduction of dependence on foreign energy sources, and will develop Israeli industry and technology, creating thousands of jobs in the periphery.”

Erdan stressed that the 210 megawatts allocated to biogas and biomass in particular will advance the ongoing “recycling revolution” and movement for separation of waste, as it will give local authorities and private sector the ability to use waste to produce clean energy.

At approximately $4m. per megawatt, the total investment in newly allocated solar installations could amount to $2.28b., and at about $2.2m. per megawatt the total for wind could reach $1.76b., according to industry figures.

Installation of biogas facilities costs approximately $4.8m. per megawatt, according to October 2010 data from the Public Utility Authority, so the total investments in the new 210-megawatt allocation could reach $1.008b.

Meanwhile, the portions dedicated to Judea and Samaria could reach $384m. for solar (including the 10% shift from the current medium- field quota), $176m. for wind and $100.8m. for biogas.

In addition to the increased quotas on renewable energy available for production in commercial venues, the vote approved an additional 50 megawatts and NIS 10m. for green energy research, as well as the establishment of an inter-ministerial task team to make sure the government bodies are pursuing the latest green energy technologies possible, the Prime Minister’s Office said. The Interior Ministry will also now be required to remove all statutory barriers that hinder green energy promotion, according to the decision.

The newly approved amendments stem from a compromise brokered by Prof. Eugene Kandel, the prime minister’s chief economic adviser, to find a middle ground among ministers who have been sparring over the country’s renewable energy future.

While green activists and innovators praised the government’s decision to approve the amendments, they reminded officials that these are only the first steps to achieving a greener future.

“The decision taken today is an important opening bid. There is still more work to do, to ensure the full and immediate potential of solar energy is realized by the State of Israel,” Jon Cohen, CEO of Arava Power Company, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

“This clean, available, immediate, safe source of electricity, at a price beneficial to the national economy, must be more aggressively embraced by the government.”

Hila Krupsky, director of Greenpeace’s energy campaign, added in a statement: “We commend the government on the decision to increase the production of electricity from clean energy and environmentally friendly sources. We call upon the government not to stop here. We will continue to monitor and ensure that public health, safety and protection of the environment will remain a top priority for the decision-makers.”

While the government claimed that these new regulations would help make electricity powered 10% by renewable sources by 2020 – with 1,550 renewable megawatts by 2014 and 2,760 by 2020 – the Renewable Energy Association in Israel argued that because consumption rates will be higher by the year 2020, the country will only actually reach 7% renewables with the currently mandated quotas. While commending Landau and Erdan on their “achievement against the Treasury,” the group said that the government is actually “sabotaging itself in implementing the determined production targets.”

Landau, who on Thursday had acknowledged that this plan was “not perfect,” nonetheless expressed satisfaction that the vote had passed.

“I hope that in this manner the State of Israel has embarked on a new path, with confidence and certainty in the renewable energy market,” Landau said in a statement, from a diplomatic mission abroad. “However, the task is not complete. We will continue to work and promote every green megawatt and help every entrepreneur. In the year 2020, renewable energy will account for 10% of electricity production.”