We should all keep an eye on the Levant this summer as it manages a severe energy crisis, because what is currently unfolding on a regional scale is likely to eventually take place internationally as well. Israel, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Territories are all taxed by dwindling energy supplies and rising demand, and each country’s response to this dual challenge is worth noting.
Egypt cut off its supply of natural gas to Israel, Jordan is working furiously to get oil shale plants online, foreign aid organizations have been supplying renewables to the West Bank and Gaza and most recently, Israel’s Environmental Minister proposed a plan to cut off Israel’s electricity supply to Gaza in order to prevent shortfalls in their own energy supply.
Cutting energy next door
According to the Times of Israel, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan compiled a letter to fellow cabinet members ahead of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting. In it, he wrote: It would be absurd if at the same time as there is a terrorist regime next to us which doesn’t pay its bills, that there will be power outages [here]… In my opinion… since the disengagement we no longer have to supply the [Gaza] Strip with their needs. We are a moral country, and I do believe that water and energy are basic needs; however, when we ourselves do not have enough electricity, I don’t see any legal commitment.
Cutting off supply to Gaza will insert an additional 4% of the country’s overall energy supply back into its own grid, alleviating pressure in Israel, which has already seen an 8.9% price hike in electricity prices following escalating disruptions and an eventual cessation to its natural gas supply from Egypt.
But MK Dov Henin, Chairman of the Knesset Health and Environmental Committee, slammed Erdan’s proposal. Instead of punishing the Palestinian people for Israel’s poor management, he told reporters, plans should be put in place to enhance energy conservation and step up renewable energy programs.
Indeed, Israel is one of the world leaders in clean technology development and yet employs very little of its own genius. Until the recent natural gas discoveries in the Mediterranean, politicians have persisted in a futile effort to compete with the fossil fuel wealth enjoyed by its Arab neighbors instead of exploiting the solar resources it does have in abundance.
Even though Israel produced such renewable luminaries as BrightSource Energy and Ormat Technologies and boasts some of the best solar irradiance in the world, the country only aims to invest $5 billion in a plan to derive 10% of its energy from renewables by 2020. Compare that with Algeria, for example, which has committed to spending four times as much on renewables by 2030 despite enjoying a fraction of Israel’s fiscal or intellectual wealth.
Israel’s slow uptake of renewables is a major contributor to today’s energy shortages, which are forcing the administration to consider drastic measures to curtail them. Other countries are taking desperate measures too, all of which will further exacerbate social and environmental catastrophes.
In times of duress, it’s easier to push through hasty solutions than it is to implement slower, more sustainable programs, but we have to resist. We must commit now to initiatives that will not only address immediate shortages but that will also serve us in the long-term.
Image credit: lightening over Tel Aviv, Shutterstock
More on Renewables, Energy Shortages in Israel and Palestinian Territories:
Battle to Save Solar in Remote Palestinian Villages
An Israel Alone, Dependent on Natural Gas
Egypt Slashes Longstanding Gas Deal With Israel