Monday, April 20, 2009

Israeli Environmental Protection Minister Erdan calls for freeze on planned coal-fired power plant

Israel's new Environmental Protection Minister, Gilad Erdan, has issued a detailed objection to the planned coal-fired power plant in Ashkelon.

Born and raised in Ashkelon, Erdan has long been a vocal opponent of Israel Electric Corp.'s plans to build two additional coal-fired units at the Rutenberg Power Station. Erdan asked the interim cabinet secretary to freeze plans for the new units and called for an updated plan for the energy marke that takes into account the recent discovery of natural gas off Israel's coast, the global economic crisis, and international climate change agreements.

Erdan listed eight reasons why another coal-fired power plant was unnecessary:

  • The discovery of large deposits of natural gas at the Tamar site, off Haifa, and the Dalit site, off Hadera, necessitated a reappraisal of the situation;

  • The financial crisis has already led to a 10 percent decrease in electricity use and momentum could be used to activate the national conservation campaign to reduce use by 20%;

  • The emergency plan put in place by the National Infrastructures Ministry last year had passed through planning committees faster than expected, thus putting more megawatts based on natural gas at the availability of the IEC;

  • Erdan urged upgrading and "re-powering" existing plants to produce more electricity rather than building new ones;

  • He urged the country to adopt energy streamlining measures such as those being advocated worldwide;

  • Even if a coal-fired plant needed to be built at some point, it should be built at a later date, after technological improvements made operation cleaner;

  • Noting that European countries had set renewable energy goals of 20% by 2020, Erdan called for Israel to do the same;

  • Finally, Erdan argued that it was counterproductive to build a highly polluting power plant when Israel would most likely have to abide by the post-Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions set to go into effect in 2012.