The Exciting Potential of Dual Usage Energy Generation in the Israeli Periphery

According to the Heschel Center’s NZO program, Israel must and can shift toward renewable energies by 2050. Setting ambitious milestones, such as 50% renewable energies by 2030, is a first step toward achieving them.

In order to promote the implementation of the plan, the Chief Scientist of the Keren Kayemet Le’Israel (KKL-JNF) and the Heschel Center for Sustainability initiated the Shemesh Israel project. In collaboration with the Jezreel Valley Regional Council, this project aims to map the full potential for solar energy production within its territory, regarding the barriers, possibilities, and opportunities.

The study included mapping rooftops in ​​the regional council’s territory, including: roofs of private homes; structures and sheds for agricultural use; public and industrial buildings. Thereafter, the potential for solar production from these rooftops is calculated, along with an examination of what percentage of the rooftops has already been put to use (that is, those on which solar panels have already been installed), and from among those rooftops – how many have only been partially utilized.

The results indicated that the potential for solar power production from rooftops within the council’s territory is quite significant, standing at approximately 390 megawatts, of which only roughly 15% is currently utilized. The highest production potential exists on agricultural and industrial buildings, yet thus far only about a quarter has been utilized, of which over a third is only partially utilized. Roofs of private homes retain a large production potential (about 125 megawatts), yet their percentage of extraction is extremely low, standing at only 3.4%. Fieldwork and in-depth interviews indicated a number of obstacles, relating to planning and regulatory processes, bureaucratic issues, existing tariff regulations, as well as psychological barriers and knowledge gaps among residents.

The obstacles identified have been transferred to the strategic working teams, which operate in government ministries in the field, and recommendations are currently being formulated to resolve them. In parallel, intervention plans are being developed on the local level, to raise the population’s awareness of the existing benefits of installing solar systems and to alleviate the obstacles they face.

At the end of July, a seminar was held in which the main findings of the study were presented, and focused discussions were held on the obstacles identified, with the participation of representatives from a variety of government ministries and other regulatory bodies; representatives from the council and localities; academics; environmental activists and more.

Chief Scientist of the Jewish National Fund, Dr. Doron Markel noted: “Similar to the water economy, where cities have become water producers for agricultural irrigation through sewage treatment facilities, so in the future energy economy, regional councils and agriculture will become energy producers for cities, thanks to the broad territory for solar energy absorption and its transformation into a source of electricity for both regional councils and cities.”

Co-CEO of the Heschel Center for Sustainability Tamara Sharon Ross, stated: “The NZO project has paved the way for Israel’s transition to renewable energies. Over the past two years, we have conducted three field studies to identify the obstacles that hinder the transition in different sectors, and to bring about their resolution. The current study emphasized the importance of connecting government ministries to the field and the role of civil society organizations in bringing about change.”

The head of the Jezreel Valley Regional Council, Eyal Betzer, concluded: “The earth signals to us daily the condition it’s in and we’re needed globally and here in sundrenched Israel. This is a global and national interest. Here in the council, by connecting to the countryside and covering roofs with solar panels that provide renewable energy, we provide an environmental and agricultural solution. The Jezreel Valley Regional Council is leading the solar revolution and has already completed roofing all public buildings with solar panels. That’s the reason why it was important for us to participate in the current project, to continue to lead, identify and realize the full potential of clean energy production for a better environment for our children “