Upbeat Mood at Carbon-Neutral Eilat Energy Event as AORA Solar Leaves Stealth Mode

Uzi Landau and Udi Gat launching the Arava Validation Center on Tuesday; Credit: Aran Dolev

Despite some grumbling about zigzags in government policy and bureaucratic obstacles, the mood at the third annual Eilat-Eilot International Energy Conference & Exhibition seemed upbeat during Day 1 of the three-day event, which opened in Eilat on Tuesday. The CEO of Sunday Energy, Kobi Dinar, even cited Rabbi Nahman of Breslov in expressing optimism in the face of regulatory hurdles and uncertainty: “If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix.”

The turnout also reflected the growing interest in renewable energy: According to the event’s organizers, some 2,000 people are attending the conference – about twice as many as last year. However, despite its billing as an international event and a lineup of several VIP guests from abroad (including U.S. Congressman Steve Israel and German Bundestag member Herman Scheer), it is mainly a gathering of Israelis. (Only a few participants used the earphones provided for simultaneous translation from Hebrew.)

The chairman of the Eilot regional council, Udi Gat, announced that the conference this year will be carbon-neutral: The estimated 662 tons of carbon dioxide produced as a result of convening the conference will be offset by installing energy-efficient solar water heaters and air conditioners in two Israeli localities.

The conference opened with a recorded greeting from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who claimed that Israel is especially well-suited to serve as “a light unto the nations” in the field of solar energy because “we have lots of sun, brains and willpower.”

His Likud colleague, MK Ayoub Kara, a deputy minister responsible for promoting the development of the Negev and Galilee, stressed that renewable energy offers both economic and security benefits to Israel.

The vice president of Ben-Gurion University, Moti Herskowitz, added that Israel’s expertise in nanotech could serve as a “real platform for developing renewable energy.” He noted that an academic committee will soon deliver recommendations for pursuing research in the energy field.

The ‘green-roof’ revolution

Minister of National Infrastructure Uzi Landau, who visited AORA’s hybrid solar array at nearby Kibbutz Samar and launched the Arava Technologies Validation Center at neighboring Kibbutz Ketura before delivering his keynote address, preached his vision of “green roofs” as part of an “ideology” of green homes.

And he stressed that the transition toward a lifestyle that is “in harmony with nature” does not require a lower standard of living. Though known for his hawkish political views, Landau said that this harmony also means living in equilibrium with others.

Landau acknowledged the need for the government to reduce uncertainty by issuing clear quotas and feed-in tariffs for solar energy. He also announced that the European Investment Bank will double its initial investment in the Ashalim project to €100 million. This project, planned for completion by the end of 2014, includes two thermo-solar power stations, each with a capacity of about 120MW, plus a photovoltaic power plant with installed capacity of 15MW (with an option to expand this to 30MW)..

“One of the goals of the National Infrastructures Ministry is to provide every Israeli home with access to power produced from renewable energy sources,” Landau declared. “With the construction of the Ashalim plant, we are moving from simply talking about our renewable energy potential to actualizing our vision.”

::Eilat Energy conference website

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