Archive for August, 2008

Israel’s Electric Production

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Hi Everyone!

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer. Many Israelis go on vacation during the last 2-3 weeks of August before school starts. Once everyone comes back from vacation we will be in contact with the solar energy companies in Israel to get news items regarding new developments.

This week there was an interesting item in the news.
The Haifa municipality has decided to establish a large-capacity electric bus route called the Metronit which will begin operating in 2010. Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv are working on a light-rail (also electric) but those projects are very expensive and it may take several years to start the service. In my opinion, Haifa is doing something good that all municipalities should start considering. Not only does electric buses reduce pollution they also reduce our dependence on gasoline for transportation.

This brings me to another popular project that made headlines early this year - ‘Project Better Place’. An Israeli by the name of Shai Agassi has proposed and has gotten the endorsement of the Israeli government, to develop an infrastructure in Israel for the electric car. ‘Project Better Place’ of Palo Alto, California, will provide the lithium-ion batteries, which will be able to go 124 miles per charge. They, also, will provide the infrastructure necessary to keep the  cars going. The infrastucture will include parking meter-like plugs on city streets that will recharge the batteries. Renault and Nissan will provide the electric cars.

What does all of this got to do with solar energy ?

The Israel Electric Company has an installed generation capacity of about 11,323 billion watts (Dec. 2007). In 2007, the company consumed 409,000 tons of fuel oil, 13.4 million tons of coal, 883,000 tons of diesel fuel and 1.8 million tons of natural gas. IN 2007, natural gas generated about 20% of IEC’s electricity production. By the end of 2010, 40% of its electricity will be generated by natural gas. A large part of the natural gas will be supplied to Israel from Egypt. I am not sure if it is a wise move putting Israel’s energy security in the hands of one leader.

Coal is available from many places but it is a dirty fuel and Israel is trying to reduce its usage.

As I mentioned in a previous message, Israel is slowly working toward its first large solar enery power plant in the Negev. The problem is that electric consumption continues to rise and the price and availability of fossil fuels may be very problematic in just a few years. Now is the time to work agressively on developing large solar energy projects. The Israeli technology has been proven all over the world and the benefits of investing in these type of alternative energy projects will pay off in the long run. It would be nice if we do not have a real local energy crisis before taking the right steps to secure our energy resources.

Shabbat Shalom,
Jacob

 

The Israeli Government and the Solar Industry

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Hi Everyone!

This week the Israeli government approved a plan to establish a research and development center for renewable energy technologies. The center will be located in the Negev and the government will invest NIS 70 million over a period of five years. This is a good step toward helping Israel increase its share of renewable energy exports. In fact, the Israeli Negev is becoming a magnetic for companies working on solar and renewable energy technologies. Rotem Industries, Luz II, Zenith Solar are based in the Negev and all three are working on technologies to make solar energy less expensive. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, said: “The future of Israel lies in the Negev”. Well, it looks like the future is here.

This week I read an article in the Jerusalem Report that had experts in the field criticize the incentive program that was introduced in July to buy surplus electricty generated from rooftops using PV (photovoltaic) panels. The people interviewed implied that the government was wasting money on this limited project. I disagree. I think the government should encourage the installation of PV panels as a first step in a solar energy policy. Many countries around the world are giving their citizens incentives to install PV panels. In time, the technology will improve, prices will go down and subsidies will not be needed. It is important to keep the relatively small local manufacturing and installation companies in the game as we wait for the technology to improve. Based upon the current, fast paced technological developments worldwide, I think we will see more compact and efficient PV panels within the next 3-5 years.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the U.S. Congress has gone on vacation without passing the energy bill. This is not good at all. The tax credits for purchasing solar and wind systems expire at the end of December 2008. Many alternative energy projects will be put on hold or cancelled if the tax credits are not extended. Both the Republicans and Democrats have added so many extra items to the bill, that passing the bill has become problematic. However, a group of 10 senators (five Republicans and five Democrats) are hammering out a bipartisan compromise. Let’s hope that the bill passes and that we do not see a repeat of history like the 1980’s when oil prices fell, the tax credits were not renewed and the solar and wind industries went into hibernation. This important piece of legislation will also affect Israeli companies that are making inroads in the alternative energy field in America. Congress will be back in session in September and I hope to report good news by then.

Until next week…..

Shabbat Shalom,
Jacob