Israel ‘has alternatives’ to suspended Colombian coal, says electric company

Latin American country supplies more than half of Israel’s coal; IEC negotiating with alternative suppliers to ‘increase room for maneuver’

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Coal stacks at the Orot Rabin power station in Hadera, central Israel, August 28, 2008. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)
Coal stacks at the Orot Rabin power station in Hadera, central Israel, August 28, 2008. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

The Israel Electric Corporation said Sunday that it had alternatives to Colombian coal, after the Latin American nation announced Saturday that it would suspend coal exports to Israel over the war against Hamas in Gaza.

A spokesman said, “We do not purchase directly from Colombia and do not participate in their tenders for coal sales. Our agreements are with large international trading companies and we have alternatives for the various sources.”

He added, “We are negotiating with alternative suppliers…to further increase our room for maneuver.”

With natural gas available aplenty in its Mediterranean waters, Israel has reduced the share of coal in its electricity mix to around 20 percent.

But Colombia is responsible for more than half of all coal exports to Israel, at a cost to Israel last year of some $450 million.

The war in Gaza, sparked by the Hamas terror group’s murderous invasion of Israel on October 7, has exposed the vulnerability of Israel’s dependence on natural gas — a fossil fuel.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro delivers a speech during a military ceremony at the Military School of Cadets General Jose Maria Cordova in Bogota on May 31, 2024. (Raul ARBOLEDA / AFP)

Israel’s Tamar gas platform was closed during the early days of hostilities due to fear of attack, and the government has approved the import of more diesel and coal and even allowed the state oil company — the Europe Asia Pipeline Company — to offload more oil from tankers at its Red Sea port in Eilat in the south, so long as it is for Israeli use.

The nation has so far fallen short of its 2020 goal of having 30% of energy derived from renewable sources by the end of this decade. By the end of last year, renewables accounted for just 10% of Israeli power.

The Energy Ministry has meanwhile postponed the complete cessation of coal use from 2025 to 2026.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who cut diplomatic ties with Israel in May, wrote Saturday on X that coal exports would only resume “when the genocide” in Gaza has stopped. He also posted a draft decree saying they would only restart if Israel complied with a recent order by the International Court of Justice to immediately halt any military assault on Rafah that risks the destruction of the civilian population sheltering there.

Israel denies accusations that its war violates the international genocide convention, stressing that its military operations are targeted against terror groups which operate within civilian infrastructure.

Turkey last month halted trade with Israel over the war in Gaza, while the Maldives this month banned Israeli passport holders from entry.

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