US-Israel Cleantech Forum launches

Moshe Gaon: In cleantech, there's a lot of activity, but no leadership.

Last week, MIYA president and CEO Baruch Oren and B. Gaon Holdings Ltd. (TASE: GAON) chairman Moshe Gaon presented a new forum: the US-Israel Binational Cleantech Forum. The announcement was made at the Israel America Chamber of Commerce conference in Washington, "US and Israel: 60 years of business partnership".

Miya is the water investment venture of Shari Arison. Gaon Holdings invests in cleantech and water technologies through AquAgro Fund LP. The new forum will engage in public relations, lobby the US government and Congress, create economic models, and establish joint cleantech business ventures. It will meet twice a year, once in Jerusalem and once in Washington. Members will include figures from government, industry, academe, environmental organizations, and financial institutions.

In an exclusive interview with "Globes", Moshe Gaon said that the forum was needed to overcome the lack of cooperation between environmental organizations and businesses. "There's a lot of activity, but no leadership, and everyone is operating alone, each country for itself, each company for itself. There are huge differences between industrialists and environmental organizations, and everyone is remote from the funds. Financing for academe is almost non-existent."

The new forum will focus on current industries rather than on building new infrastructures. This is logical in times of crisis like now, when it is hard to raise financing for new infrastructures. It is a particularly logical approach for a company like Gaon Holdings, whose subsidiary Gaon Agro Industries Ltd. (TASE: GAT) is already active in the Israeli water and environmental industries.

Gaon added, "Instead of supporting Gaon Agro's desalination plant at Palmachim, the government wants to invest in a new plant that will take three years to build, when the [water shortage] problem can be dealt with now. The whole world knows that investment in existing infrastructures, such as leakage prevention, renovation of present installations or expanding pipeline networks, is the cheaper and faster way to deal with immediate water problems."

The US-Israel Binational Cleantech Forum will not only deal with water, but with environmental industries in general, including renewable energy. Gaon said, "There is no current government encouragement of renewable energy. We want to urge regulation that will support the construction of solar power stations on roofs of homes and factories. The problem is that the Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of National Infrastructures cannot promote any project without prior approval of the Ministry of Finance. In Israel, the boys of the Ministry of Finance can block projects for years. That doesn’t happen in other countries."

Gaon noted, "Israel sees itself as a water industry and solar energy leader, but in fact it is an insignificant player. We're only players in technology, not in industry, not in regulation, not in actual projects in the country." He added that the lack of collaboration in the field was one reason for this situation. "Gaon Agro has been operating in the water industry for a decade, but no one consults us," he said.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on December 4, 2008

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2008

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