"Cold Peace" May Keep Proposed Egyptian-Israeli Solar Project On Ice

sinai desert hooshas photo kumkum 3

An Israeli-Egyptian solar project in the Sinai Desert? Not on Egypt’s account.

It was the sunniest news to come out of the Eilat Energy conference last week: that Israel and Egypt would be cooperating on solar energy projects in the Sinai Desert, now under Egyptian sovereignty.

While Israel and Egypt, thanks to Sadat now have peace, we have to realize once again, it’s probably a cold peace at best. So don’t get really too excited about Israel and Egypt  embarking on a joint solar energy project in the Sinai! Despite the fanfare in Jesse Fox’s February 18 post; there doesn’t appear to be much of a chance of this happening – at least in the foreseeable future.

According to Egyptian Energy Ministry sources, reported on Arutz Sheva, the Egyptian Ministry of Electricity and Energy spokesman Aktham Abul Ela was quoted in Arabic by the Al Masry Al Youm, and translated by the Independent Media Review Analysis (IMRA) saying that there would be no dealings with Israel, “not now or in the future”.

Despite the fact that Israel does purchase petroleum and natural gas from Egypt, in a 15 year deal cut by the Egyptian government and the Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2005, very few infrastructure projects between the two countries have actually taken place. Why’s that?

The 2005 gas deal, in which then Israeli National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezar was involved, agreed that Egypt would supply 1.7 billion cubic meters, or 60 billion cubic feet, of natural gas a year via an undersea pipeline from the north Egyptian town of el-Arish to the southern Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon.

Ironically Ben Eliezar, now Israel’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, is also involved in trying to work out an agreement in which Egypt would supply the land and Israel the technological know-how to build a large solar energy power plant in Egypt’s Sinai desert.

As reported by Jesse, Ben Eliezar commented at the recent Eilat-Eilot Renewable Conference that he envisions Israel’s Negev and Arava desert regions developing into another Silicon Valley type area for technological development, especially in the fields of renewable energy and other clean technology ventures.

He added that “it breaks my heart when I see these types of companies setting up projects abroad instead of here in Israel.”

Well, Mr. Minister, it may be sad to see this happen, but it’s even sadder to see that the possibility of joint projects (like solar energy) between Israel and Egypt coming to pass is even more remote, at least for now anyway.

Israel has a better chance of entering into joint projects with Jordan, especially if the two countries finally agree to work together on the proposed Red-Dead canal, which will benefit both countries in the end. But in light of current regional political realities, especially due to the fall-out coming after the release of the controversial Goldstone Report, working together with Jordan is also not much more than a pipe dream.

More on renewable energy and other projects in the Sinai and southern Israel:
Jordan, Israel, and Palestinians Meet to Jump Start Controversial Red-Dead Canal
Egypt Teams with Abu Dhabi on 200MW Wind Farm Near Suez
Arava Power to Electrify the Negev After Signing 15 Solar Energy Deals

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