Shut Down the New Coal-Fired Power Plants, Says Israel's New Environment Minister

ashkelon-coal-power-plant beach israel photo

Israel has a new government, and this also means a new environment minister. The new one, Gilad Erdan actually sounds like he’s learned something about the environment before taking on the post. The hot news is that he has applied to Israel’s Acting Government Secretary to convene an emergency government session to discuss his demand for freezing plans for a coal fired power plant in Ashkelon, reports the Ministry.

In parallel, he’s called on the Minister of National Infrastructure to submit an updated plan for electricity production based on recent changes in the economy and on similar plans worldwide.

In his request, Minister Erdan notes that the plan for a coal-fired power station in Ashkelon calls for two new coal fired units, in addition to the four which already exist in the Rutenberg power station in Ashkelon.

In the past, the Environmental Protection Ministry has tried to delay the implementation of the plan using the proposed technology, largely due to the adverse environmental impacts of coal heating (e.g., pollutant emissions to the air) compared to stations that operate on natural gas and alternative energy.

In the opinion of Environmental Protection Minister Erdan, several recent circumstances and changes justify a rethinking of the issue, including:

New discoveries of gas fields “Tamar and “Dalit” off the Mediterranean coast of Israel:

The Tamar gas field has a potential of some 142 billion cubic meters (bcm) while the Dalit field, which is currently being tested, is expected to contain some 20 bcm of exploitable gas. Preliminary signs of gas were already observed in the exploratory drilling. If estimates prove true, exploitation of these fields should provide Israel’s energy needs for many years and free it of its dependence on the import of fuel for energy production. But as Green Prophet reported earlier, natural gas is not that clean.

Economic crisis:

The current economic crisis has brought about a reported 10% reduction in energy consumption in Israel. These new figures change the calculations which made the immediate construction of a new power plant imperative. The current crisis may be used to promote an information campaign and to activate a national plan for energy savings and conservation which will bring about a savings of up to 20% of consumption.

Implementation of an emergency plan for the electricity sector:

The emergency plan which was declared by the Infrastructure Ministry last year was promoted in Israel’s planning agencies and brought about an added expansion of some 1400 MW in the approved planning inventory which now stands at 2,700 MW.

Another 3000 MW are in different stages of planning and approval processes. This inventory, which is totally based on natural gas, can provide an additional production capability for a significant number of years.

Increased production capacity in existing power plants:
Technological upgrades and repowering can bring about an addition of 1100 MW in existing power plants, which operate on natural gas, without the addition of new sites.

Energy efficiency:

Worldwide massive government support and encouragement are directed toward energy efficiency and energy savings. Israel can bring about a 10% reduction in consumption in this way and the State of Israel should take the necessary steps to promote this subject.

Technological advancements in coal-powered stations:
Coal-based heating has adverse environmental impacts, which primarily include pollutant emissions into the air (particulates, carbon dioxide, sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxides, heavy metals and more) and generation of waste such as coal ash, gypsum and catalytic material waste that require treatment.

Coal-fired power plant technologies are constantly being advanced so as to maximize their efficiency while minimizing their pollutant emissions. Advanced technologies such as Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) are currently under examination and assimilation worldwide. Therefore postponing the construction of a power plant based on the proposed technology would mean construction of a power plant which is based on a better, more efficient and cleaner technology in the future.

Alternative energy:

European states have decided to develop alternative energy sources at a scope of 20% by 2020. In Israel, decisions call for 10% of the country’s energy to be based on alternative energy (largely solar energy). A decision should be taken to broaden the scope of alternative energy production to 20%. Home-grown Israeli solar technology — see our guide — should be a part of that.

Cost to the economy:

International conventions and protocols, such as the Kyoto Protocol which Israel ratified and the Bali road map which charts the course for a future international agreement in the post-Kyoto era make it clear that steps must be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

The cost mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gases emissions has not yet been determined, but clearly such reductions will carry significant economic costs. European states have decided to reduce greenhouse gases emissions in 2020 by 30% relative to 1990. In Israel, under a business as usual scenario, forecasts point to an anticipated increase of more than 60% in greenhouse gas emissions, relative to 2000.

Clearly Israel will be required to take action for the reduction of greenhouse gases beginning in 2012. A coal fired power plant will be a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, its approval at this stage would mean the imposition of major external costs to the economy as of 2012.

This post was adapted from material supplied by Israel’s Ministry of the Environment.

[image via david55king]

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