Government greenlights 2 gas-fired power stations to meet electricity demands

Kesem plant earmarked for plot near Rosh Ha’ayin in the center of the country, while Dorad in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon will be expanded

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Protesters rally against plans for the Kesem power station. 'This gas will kill us,' read the signs in yellow (YouTube screenshot)
Protesters rally against plans for the Kesem power station. 'This gas will kill us,' read the signs in yellow (YouTube screenshot)

Running behind on its program for renewable energy, the government on Sunday approved plans for two gas-fired power stations — Kesem, to be constructed from scratch near Rosh Ha’ayin and Kafr Qasim in the center of the country, and the expansion of Dorad in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon.

Both will supply energy to the densely populated Tel Aviv area.

The decision left two other plans on the shelf for the time being — an expansion of an existing gas-fired power station in the northern coastal city of Hadera, OPC 2, and construction of the so-called Meeting of Peace station at a site between Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv, and the nearby Palestinian city of Qalqilya in the West Bank. Both have been approved by national planners.

Ministers were told that two stations were needed to prevent electricity shortages in 2025-2027.

In line with her ministry’s long-term policy, Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman opposed the building of any new plants fired by natural gas, a fossil fuel.

But she said that if continuous electricity supply was an issue, just one new plant should be approved.

She also warned that the construction of the new stations would strengthen the economy’s dependence on fossil fuels into the future. This contrasted with the policies of other developed nations that were focusing on reducing fossil fuels and increasing energy from renewable sources, she said.

Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman attends a conference in Haifa, northern Israel, on March 21, 2023. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

The Kesem station, to be built on some 80 dunams (20 acres) next to the Kesem interchange, is near an existing corridor of high-transmission power lines as well as pipes that already transport natural gas.

Local authorities vowed to continue their battle against the Kesem station, worried that it will cause air pollution and contaminate the important Yarkon-Taninim (or Western Mountain) Aquifer, which provides 30% of the country’s drinking water.

The Wauchope Bridge in Tel Aviv Port, with Reading power station to the left. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

A few weeks ago, Energy Minister Israel Katz set up a committee to investigate how best to continue using the iconic Reading power plant in Tel Aviv.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Ministry warned that Israel is far from achieving its goals to cut global warming emissions and increase renewable energy.

Israel was set to reduce its global warming emissions by just 12 percent by 2030, far below the 27% it promised the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a report predicted.

If current trends continued, only 19% of energy would be generated by renewable sources by the end of the decade, compared with an official goal of 30%.

Israel was supposed to generate 10% of its energy from renewables by 2020 but only reached 9.2% at the end of 2022.

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