Out of power: Electric company warns of summer energy crisis

Out of power: Electric company warns of summer energy crisis

Government urged to declare state of emergency; plans set to take areas off national grid temporarily, to avoid widespread blackouts

In an unprecedented alert, the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) said Thursday it fears it won’t be able to meet energy demands this summer. It asked National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau to announce a state of emergency, so it will be able to impose initiated blackouts, taking entire neighborhoods off the national grid for short periods to prevent uncontrolled outages.

The crisis is a function of ever-growing demand and of reduced supply, in part due to regional factors: A depleted supply of natural gas — largely because of repeated terrorist attacks that have shut down the crucial pipeline from Egypt — means that energy production could well fall below the country’s needs in the coming months, the IEC said.

The IEC estimates that, overall, energy production this summer will only be 1% higher than energy demand. A single malfunction in a power station or particularly hot weather, therefore, will cause power outages.

Israel has been grappling with a power crisis for several years, but the call to declare a state of emergency marks a new low.

Yiftah Ron-Tal, the IEC’s director, explained that reserves were already depleted because of the high prices of coal and oil in addition to the drop in natural gas imported from Egypt. The natural gas pipeline crossing the Sinai Peninsula has been sabotaged more than a dozen times in the past year.

The IEC this week has been testing the capacity of the national grid for the summer, and has been seeking to ascertain the company’s capacity to initiate power outages in case of a grid overload. It said Thursday that the tests will continue for a few more days.

According to a report on Israel Radio, the IEC is now drawing up a detailed plan on how to cut power temporarily in certain areas of the country if needed. The plan would include taking neighborhoods off the grid for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, officials said.

Speaking to Army Radio, Ron-Tal said planners at the Energy and Water Resources Ministry were devising ways to reduce the likelihood of power shortages, including cutting prices late at night — a move meant to ease the pressure during peak hours.

Strategies are being planned to ensure that electricity is provided to buildings where there is a medical need even if the neighborhood’s grid is down.

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