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Cabinet greenlights target of 30% renewable energy by 2030

Environmental protection minister lambastes goal, says ‘real message’ is 70% will come from climate-warming gas, undermining efforts to move to renewables

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Illustrative: Solar panels in the desert near Eilat, Israel. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Illustrative: Solar panels in the desert near Eilat, Israel. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The cabinet on Sunday greenlighted the Energy Ministry’s aim of having 30 percent of Israel’s energy come from renewable sources by 2030.

Predicting that the transition could save the economy some NIS 8 billion ($2.4 billion) a year, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said the move would require a tripling of the current solar energy infrastructure. He described it as “ambitious” and a “real revolution.”

The remaining 70% of Israel’s energy needs will be met by natural gas, substantial reserves of which have been found off the country’s Mediterranean coast.

The cabinet decided that Steinitz should review and update his targets for 2030 by the end of 2024. It set the end of 2025 as the deadline for having 20% of power generated from renewable sources.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz at a conference in Tel Aviv on February 27, 2019. (Flash90)

The Environmental Protection Ministry, however, wants a target of 40% renewables by 2030.

During the cabinet discussion, Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said that the 30% plan would “leave Israel behind, far from the targets of developed and even developing countries.”

She went on, “The real significance of this decision is the adoption of a target of 70% electricity generation from gas, which is a polluting fossil fuel.”

That gives the wrong signal to the economy and undermines the certainty that business needs to transition to energy based on renewable sources, she continued. Instead, it would encourage huge economic investment in gas infrastructure “in contrast with all the efforts being made in Israel and around the world to reduce dependence on energy production from fossil sources that pollute and increase climate change.”

Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel. (Courtesy, Environmental Protection Ministry)

Gamliel declared, “Already today, close to 50% of electricity production from solar sources can be achieved in the built-up area.”

The ministries of energy and environmental protection have locked horns over the targets for several months.

During an open spat at a Knesset committee meeting in July, Steinitz accused a senior Environmental Protection Ministry official of “populism” for claiming that 47% of Israel’s energy could already come from renewable sources.

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