Oil spill heightens urgency
A ribbon-cutting ceremony to inaugurate the new Regional Collaboration Centre for Research and Development and Renewable Energy near Eilat. (photo from Jewish National Fund via jns.org)
The worst oil spill in Israel’s history was the unplanned backdrop for a recent international conference on green energy held in Eilat, the country’s southernmost city. A busy port and popular resort city located at the northern tip of the Red Sea, Eilat is at the epicentre of the Jewish state’s renewable energy industry.
The Eilat-Eilot Green Energy Sixth International Conference and Exhibition, held Dec. 7-9, was the culmination of six events that comprised Israel Energy Week and offered participants from around the globe a concentrated encounter with the emerging world of alternative energy in Israel. The conference focused on challenges facing the renewable energy industry, including storage and supply of electricity, development of methods to manage electricity flow and financing to advance projects.
It also focused on the key role renewable energy plays in the southern Arava, a stretch of Negev Desert from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba in which Eilat and the Hevel Eilot Regional Council are located. This arid, sun-drenched area is Israel’s main locale for sustainable development and functions as an international showcase for Israeli innovation in the field of green energy.
“Renewable energy, with an emphasis on solar, is a major focus of our municipal activity and plays a key role in the region as a whole,” Meir Yitzhak Halevi, the mayor of Eilat, told conference attendees. “The city of Eilat and the Hevel Eilot Regional Council, which together account for 13 percent of Israel’s land area but less than one percent of the country’s population, have recognized the potential offered by the sunlight and open space that exist here in such abundance, and are concentrating on renewable energy as a catalyst for regional growth.”
According to Udi Gat, head of the Hevel Eilot Regional Council, the area has already reached nearly 60 percent daytime energy independence and in eight months will generate nearly 100 percent of the energy consumed each day in the southern Arava. By 2020, the municipality and regional council anticipate that the area will be completely energy-independent and free of fossil fuel and carbon emissions.
“We want to generate more electricity, even beyond the needs of Eilat and the regional council. We want to help the country produce electricity from an inexpensive source – the sun – and to be Israel’s electricity storehouse or ‘bank,’” Gat said.
The importance of achieving energy independence was conveyed to the conference in a dramatic way when, four days prior to the start of the gathering, an oil pipeline ruptured during maintenance work at a construction site about 12 miles north of Eilat. Five million litres of crude oil spilled out and fouled an estimated 250 acres of scenic desert, including a nature reserve. Delicate coral reefs beyond the nearby shoreline were also threatened.
Read more at jns.org.