According to McKinsey’s Insight’s Global Energy Perspective (January, 2019), the world will see an increase in renewable energy usage, starting in 2020. However, the dire news is that even if all the countries in the world reach their climate goals as stated in the Paris Agreement by 2050, we will only reduce 22% of global carbon emissions, which does not get us closer to the reduction needed to save the world from catastrophe. This prediction clearly means that we need to set more ambitious goals. The Heschel Center’s 100% Renewable Energies Project is meant to do just that, and proposes an ambitious vision to deal with the Israel’s largest source of emission.
Since Israel found natural gas, the government has been treating it as a way to transition out of coal-based energy. Sadly, generating electricity from fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas as well) is a major cause of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and directly and indirectly harms health and well-being.
Israel’s commitment under the Paris Accords is to reach 17% renewables, while the current rate of generating energy from renewable sources – in this sun-drenched country – is a paltry 4%!
In the next six months, Israel will determine its strategic goals for the next 30 years, and the objectives it sets for generating renewable energy in the Israeli economy will have significant implications for our lives here today.
Why renewable energies?
- Solar energy is the people’s energy. The production can be decentralized, it can now be done relatively cheaply, and also cooperatively, thus contributing to resilience in the face of disruptive events.
- Renewable energies don’t cause local air or water pollution, they are one of the most important factors in solving the climate crisis, and they don’t deplete natural resources.
- It is doable! Many countries have already adopted ambitious energy agendas: Germany already is at 40%, and is shooting for 65%; Costa Rica is close to 100%, Iceland is at 100%, Sweden is close too, and there are more.
Without action now, scientists are in agreement that average summer temperatures in Israel could reach 48 degrees Celsius within a few decades.
We need to act now to help the Israeli economy transition to renewables.
How should we influence Israel’s goals for 2050? An initiative of the Heschel Center, which the government adopted, is the 2050 multi-sector collaborative process to set Israel’s climate goals. The four working groups deal with transportation, cities, the Israeli industry and energy. As the Heschel Center is no longer leading the process, its primary goal is to work with the government on creating a financial, infrastructural, science-based plan for Israel to transform to 100% renewables.
It is only natural that a project as ambitious as that will have many challenges. For instance, even if Israel will cover all of its rooftops with solar arrays, it will only generate 30% of its energy from renewables. There are issues of energy storage, space, and ethical questions of dual land usage. For this purpose, we have gathered a team of national experts who explore different models, scientific data, technological innovation and put all the numbers together. Since the 2050 process will conclude in a few months, we have very little time to show significant progress.
The initiative includes these exciting action items:
- Building an economic model for Israel that shows the viability of transitioning to 100% renewables;
- Solving the technical problem of storage;
- Building relevant models for local and regional authorities and municipalities, both Jewish and Arab (with the generous support of the UJA Federation of New York and the U.S. Embassy in Israel.)
- Building business plans for manufacturing plants and commercial retail centers.
How we plan to do all this?
- Convening a multi-disciplinary team of experts, working in conjunction with the government, supervised by a public steering committee, and in consultation with international experts;
- Data gathering and creation of optimal economic models;
- Creating a broad-based coalition to create public pressure towards getting the government on board, and crafting the appropriate legislation;
- The creation and validation of the plan by the public steering committee will show the public that the transition is possible and worthwhile, and absolutely essential for our continued well-being in Israel during the coming decades.
The next six months are crucial, but we’re feeling optimistic that the tipping point is near.