Yesterday was much like any other summer day in Israel: sunny, hot and dry.
But for Alon Tamari, CEO of SolarPower Israel, it is not one that will be forgotten in a hurry: “It’s a historical day, there’s no other way to put it.” Along with the summer heat came the long-awaited announcement that the government will be offering financial incentives to Israeli households who produce their own clean electricity via solar panels.
“The Government started speaking about it three or four years ago and we expected the regulation in one or two years,” Tamari told Green Prophet at the Cleantech 2008 exhibition. “I’ve got 700 grey hairs since then,” said Tamari, pointing to his head. Earlier in the day at Cleantech, the Public Utilities Authority confirmed that they will be offering 20-year contracts with households to buy their solar electricity from them for NIS 2.01 per Kilowatt, which means saying “goodbye” to electricity bills and “hello” to a cheque each month from the Israel Electricity Company.
Tamari and other in the Israeli solar power sector told Green Prophet that most Israelis using solar electricity to date are doing so for ideological reasons but the high cost of installing photovoltaic cells – anything from NIS 70,000 upwards for an average family – has put the brakes on growth to date. “Many people have told us in the last few months that they are just waiting for the government to sign,” said Gilad Paldi, marketing director of Go Solar, the Israeli subdivision of California-based Ronco Electric.
The latent demand could be set to be released as the financial incentives mean that investment can be returned in under 10 years from the money saved on electric bills. But there’s just one catch. The Public Utilities Authority has decided that this is a limited-offer and will not buy solar electricity for more than seven years, or a total of 50 Megawatts (50,000 Kilowatts), whichever comes sooner. If an average home uses 2 to 3 Kilowatts, I’ll leave it you do the maths with your solar-powered calculator…