Amidst The COVID-19 Crisis, Israel Discusses the Future of Natural Gas

In July of 2020, NZO (Net Zero Emissions, the Energy Project of the Heschel Center) staffers held two crucial meetings – one with Prof. Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Energy, and the other with the Knesset’s powerful Committee for Internal and Environmental Affairs.

The first meeting with the Minister was to present to him the findings of the NZO research conducted over the past year, culminating in our systematic plan for transitioning Israel to renewable energies. We demonstrated that an objective of 50% renewable energy (20% more even than their revised goal) is not only technologically feasible, but that it will save money as well. How will it save money? Today it is the case that producing solar energy (together with the latest storage batteries) is the cheapest and most reliable way to generate electricity. If we install enough of this technology in the coming years, we can avoid building costly new gas-powered plants. The Minister listened closely and congratulated us on our work, while also speaking about their challenges. We also listened closely, and will be integrating that important information into our work to help Israel avoid the massively wasteful investments in polluting and GHG emitting fossil fuel energy production.

The discussion in the Knesset’s Internal and Environmental Affairs Committee last week, headed by MK Miki Haimovich, was energetic. The topic discussed was the goals of energy production by natural gas and renewables. Most of the meeting was taken up by presentations of the Minister, and the director general of the Ministry, followed by a round of comments by MKs and other representatives, including: former MK (and Heschel alumnus) Dov Khenin, the representative of the Ministry of the Environment, Gil Proactor, and also Ram Amar and Amnon Portugali, representatives of NZO, Heschel’s Energy Project. Our speakers emphasized how renewable energy storage is developing rapidly and will allow renewable energy production to surge past the 30% objective of the Ministry.

This week, the Ministry of Energy announced they will NOT invest in building four natural gas refineries. Instead, they chose to focus on building solar energy and energy storage infrastructure. This is a victory, and we are proud to have impacted this decision.

As has been shown in the Eilat region of southern Israel where close to 100% of energy is generated from renewable sources, we will continue to work to convince the government that it is possible to get to 50% and beyond nationwide, and avoid building new gas powered stations, or even worse – fracking.