Rooftop solar heating in Israel
© Sonja Stark / flickr / CC-BY-SA-2.0

For the first time, we have released an edition of the Energy [R]evolution scenario for Israel that shows how it can move from a marginal player in renewable energy to a more important one. We promoted the scenario this week in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Our comprehensive energy plan for the country comes at a time of profound changes and challenges in energy markets both globally and in Israel.

Israel has the background to be a country with far more renewable energy. It has a long history in the development of solar technologies. It has one of the highest penetrations of solar collectors for water heating in the residential sector in the world.  And in the late 1980s, an Israeli company built the first large-scale concentrating solar power station in California’s Mojave Desert.

While solar engineers from Israel have been enthusiastic about developing solar technologies, the government of Israel has not really been supportive about putting renewable energy policies in place to make clean energy a stable domestic electricity source - despite the vast potential.

But this might change in the very near future. When the cost of fossil fuels becomes more expensive and volatile, and as the impacts of climate change we are already experiencing become a greater reality, alternative energy technologies are needed.

The good news is that solar technologies are no longer expensive. Over the past few years, solar photovoltaic and wind power became cost competitive.  As a result, the global market grew substantially and both technologies now dominate the power-plant market worldwide.

This shows the tide is slowly changing and renewables are the only alternative for governments that want to establish a secure, cost-effective and climate-friendly energy supply.

Israel is in the midst of a rapid shift in its primary energy source mix. Between 2001 and 2011, the country’s total electricity consumption increased by 36% from about 38 TWh/a to 53 TWh/a. Yet renewable electricity generation remains marginal, despite the large solar potential.

In 2010, the Israeli government committed to allowing new installation of renewables of at least 250MW per year to 2020. It has set a target of 10% renewables in its electricity production by 2020. A further increase to 20% renewable by 2030 is expected.

Nevertheless, the commitment to implement those objectives has yet to be demonstrated, such as by legislating a “Renewable Energy Law”

Our Energy [R]evolution for Israel foresees a dynamically growing renewable energy market with an increasing share of renewable electricity which would compensate for phasing out coal power plants and reducing the number of gas-fired power plants required for grid stabilisation.

By 2050, 51% of the electricity produced in Israel would come from renewable energy sources. ‘New’ renewables – mainly solar photovoltaic, solar thermal energy and wind – would contribute 47% of electricity generation. The scenario says that by 2020 the share of renewable electricity production would be 20% and 35% by 2030.

Renewable technologies would significantly reduce the future costs of electricity generation. The additional investment required in solar and wind technologies would be compensated by fuel-cost savings after less than 10 years, which would make it the most economical energy pathway for Israel.

Besides that, solar and wind technologies do not need any cooling water unlike coal and gas power plants – an important additional benefit in a country with water scarcity.

The Greenpeace Energy [R]evolution concept for Israel is a win-win strategy – the technology is there. Now, it is up to the politicians to act and implement the right policies to make it a reality.

Sven Teske is the senior energy expert of Greenpeace International