Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz announced Wednesday that the portion of electricity generated by coal will decline from 30 percent last year to no more than 24.9% by the end of this year.
In a statement, he said the move would reduce power station-related air pollution by 20% and save lives.
Some 2,500 Israelis are estimated to die each year from illnesses linked to pollution.
The ministry has already announced its intention to temporarily shut four coal-fired towers out of six at the Orot Rabin power station in coastal Hadera later this year, with the aim of permanently closing them by 2022. The two newer towers and four in Ashkelon on Israel’s southern coast will move to natural gas by 2025.
Ministry policy has been to move from power fired by 60% coal and 40% natural gas to 70% natural gas and 30% renewable sources by 2030.
The government is under public pressure to move more quickly to renewable sources.
Shahar Dolev of the Israel Energy Forum, which researches energy efficiency and sustainable energy policy, heads a team of energy professionals set up within the framework of the Heschel Center for Sustainability.
His team has already shown that Israel can move to 100% renewable energy, 24/7, by 2050, without touching a centimeter of open landscape. This can be achieved by installing panels on land and other surfaces that are already in use for some purpose.
Dolev’s team’s model also suggests that by 2030, Israel could move a good way toward providing 40% of its power from solar energy for a significant number of days and most nights.
The main obstacle, worldwide, to replacing fossil fuels with 100 percent renewable energy is the lack of storage options, as the sun does not shine at night and the wind does always blow.
A global race is on to develop methods for storing renewable energy. These include Israeli efforts to upgrade a battery based on zinc and on bromine — a locally mined resource.