Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz announced Monday that the target for renewable energy by 2030 was officially being raised from 17 percent to 30%, in a plan set to cost some NIS 80 billion ($22 billion) over the coming decade.
The decision means that over the coming decade, solar installations will be built to produce the equivalent of all the electricity produced today, Steinitz wrote on Facebook.
Steinitz, who is beginning his second stint as energy minister, asserted that “the environmental significance is the replacement of coal and pollutants with solar energy and natural gas, which will lead to a 93 percent reduction in air pollution, and a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per capita.”
He did not give details on how the figures were reached.
The plan would see more than 80% of Israel’s electricity generated by solar energy at peak hours.
“This is an investment of NIS 80 billion ($22 billion) over the next 10 years. It’s a huge economic engine that will create a great many jobs and reduce pollution,” Steinitz said in a statement.
The minister had come under heavy pressure to increase the 17% renewable energy target set within the framework of the Paris Accords, as well as criticism for portraying natural gas — which he advocates strongly for as well — as clean, given that it is also a fossil fuel which is polluting, although to a lesser extent than coal.
Last December around 100 elected officials who chair local government environment committees throughout the country called on Steinitz to rethink expanding the use of natural gas and instead set far more ambitious goals for renewable energy.
The month before, a letter to Steinitz signed by 112 scientists quoted research indicating that natural gas is similar to coal in terms of its effect on global warming.
They said a government decision two years ago to construct 16 gas-fired power stations “locks in for decades old technologies and assumptions that are no longer valid regarding the economic benefits of natural gas relative to a cleaner, less expensive and more dispersed energy system.”
Last July, the Energy Ministry and the Electricity Authority launched a campaign to persuade Israelis to erect solar panels on domestic roofs, which would earn them money for surplus energy that goes into the grid and help cut pollution. Solar panels were present on around 13,000 roofs when the campaign began, the vast majority of them agricultural, commercial or industrial, such as shopping centers.
The aim is to double that number of roofs by the end of this year, largely by encouraging residential property owners to spend NIS 55,000 to NIS 150,000 ($15,500 to $42,300) on solar panel systems that become profitable after eight to 10 years. Prices of photovoltaic panels have come down by some 80% over recent years.
Meanwhile among an inter-ministerial team’s recommendations published in December 2018 and approved by the government the following January are ensuring a natural gas supply to the Israeli market of 500 billion cubic meters a year until 2042 and taking “additional measures to incentivize petroleum exploration and production activity offshore.”