In Israel, kibbutzim (once-socialist agricultural collectives) have risen as a hotbed of environmental activity. Green Prophet has covered Kibbutz Ein Shemer, which holds environmental education seminars in their state-of-the-art greenhouse, and Kibbutz Lotan, which hosts the Center for Creative Ecology, just as a few of many examples.
Although not physically based on a kibbutz, the newly formalized Cooperative for Renewable Energy is drawing on the kibbutz’s collectivist ethos to continue advancing sustainability in Israel.
Frustrated by what they perceive to be the Israeli government’s lack of investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, a few individuals began pooling their resources to start investing on their own. “The cooperative is not only to support its members,” said founding member and acting project manager Roni Segoly, “but also the society, by promoting projects in areas that the government does not.”
Today the community stands at 100 members. An individual can become a member of the co-op by purchasing between one and ten shares for 1000 shekels each. Unlike a corporation, where more shares equal more power, each member has one vote no matter how many shares he or she owns. Major decisions, like venturing into new technology sectors or changing the constitution, require a vote from all members.
Using their combined resources, the co-op will build projects that both advance environmental protection in Israel and result in a sustainable profit for the cooperative’s members. Each project will have a different way of earning money. For its first project, which started operating in October 2009, the co-op installed a water heating system based on water pumps on Kibbutz Givat Hayim. The new system will reduce Givat Hayim’s environmental footprint, because their old heaters were based on gas. It will also save the kibbutz money by reducing their water heating costs. The co-op will get a chunk of the sum the kibbutz saves over the next six years, providing a dividend on the members’ investment.
Currently, the co-op is in pilot status. In other words, it is in a process of establishing organizational mechanisms and infrastructures. This is the real challenge, says Segoly. “The technology is not the problem. It’s the cooperative itself. Are there enough members? Too many members? What will the costs be for managing more people? Is it a lot of work? Is it easy? Difficult?”
Although there is certainly a profit motive, Segoly emphasizes that the co-op has loftier goals. “We want to be more than just the money. We want to be involved in our projects,” he stressed. “The typical member is someone who cares about the environment and wants to be part of a community.”
More on renewable energy in Israel:
Israeli Renewable Energy – Why Israel, Why Now?
5 Must-See Green & Tech Travel Stops at Israeli Kibbutzes
How Israel’s Military Secrets Translate to Clean Technology