After power outages during heatwave, Energy Ministry to study climate change effects

Examination is included in list of steps announced by ministry director, following review of weather conditions and mishaps that saw 260,000 Israelis cut off from power on June 2

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Israelis enjoy the beach on a hot summer day in Tel Aviv, June 2, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Israelis enjoy the beach on a hot summer day in Tel Aviv, June 2, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Energy Ministry’s director general announced Monday that following heatwave-related power cuts affecting some 260,000 Israelis earlier this month, he was ordering an immediate examination of the effects of climate change on electricity supply.

On June 2, temperatures rose above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), while high winds whipped up hundreds of fires across the country, closing roads and forcing some evacuations.

Between 4 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. that day, the demand for electricity exceeded the supply by around 1,000 megawatts, whereupon authorities temporarily cut off some customers from power.

The Energy Ministry director, Jacob Blitshtein, said that a review of the electricity sector’s activity that day had underlined “a combination of failures and rare circumstances,” and also provided lessons and conclusions that were already being acted upon.

Management of the nation’s electricity is divided between two main bodies. The Independent System Operator Ltd, known by its Hebrew initials as NOGA, is tasked with planning infrastructure. The Israel Electric Corporation is responsible for implementing those plans. The two work closely with the Energy Ministry and other state organizations, such as Israel Natural Gas Lines.

On the day in question, separate malfunctions occurred at two power plants in southern Israel, while other plants were undergoing maintenance work to prepare them for the summer. Even solar panels underperformed, due to the thick haze that accompanied the heatwave.

Blitshtein said NOGA had underestimated the way the heat would affect the ability of many production units to provide electricity and had failed to accurately predict the level of demand for electricity in light of weather forecasts for that day.

Energy Ministry Director General Kobi Blitshtein. (Shlomi Amsalem)

The way customers were cut off from power by a joint decision of NOGA and the IEC was neither proper nor efficient, Blitshtein added.

NOGA’s emergency procedures and the rules and criteria for disconnecting customers will be revisited and refreshed, and the relationship between the different bodies involved in providing electricity will be clarified, he said.

NOGA will work to improve demand forecasts and adapt them to extreme weather trends, he said.

And it will coordinate an examination of the way heat loads caused drops in power supplies and increased production unit malfunctions, developing measures to deal with such incidents.

Blitshtein, who entered his post in January, added that he had ordered “an immediate examination of the impact of climate change in the immediate and long term on the management of the energy sector in general, and the electricity sector in particular.”

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