The amount of electricity produced from solar energy exceeded 5% of total electricity consumption this year for the first time, Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) senior VP operations and logistics Itzhak Balmas said at the annual conference of the Association of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in Israel.
This is one of the lowest penetration rates in the world, especially in comparison with European countries, which have far less sunshine than Israel. In the UK, for example, renewable energy (mostly wind) supplied a larger proportion of total consumption than fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) in the third quarter.
Conference session moderator Dr. Ilan Suleiman commented, "The utopian world we are talking about is far closer than you think. In German, there is already an entire town of 8,000 people that generates all of its own energy."
Public Utilities Authority (electricity) chairperson Dr. Assaf Eilat said, "In the end, a distinction has to be made between the real world and what happens in some town in Germany or Sweden. In the real world, there are many problems in assimilating new technologies in the electricity system."
According to figures presented by Balmas, the amount of installed electrical capacity of solar electricity production systems in the electrical grid is already 2,200 megawatts, double the capacity of five years ago. In answer to a question about the many complaints by solar entrepreneurs who have not received authorization from IEC for hooking up to the grid, Balmas said, "We now have 7,000 requests from entrepreneurs for hooking up to the grid pending. This amounts to about 1,500 megawatts (of solar electricity production systems) for connection to the grid in the next two years."
Balmas explained that the main obstacle to speeding up the rate of connecting solar devices to the electricity grid is the need to expand the conduction and distribution network. "For every megawatt of renewable energy installed, we invested NIS 1 million in a connection to the conduction system. We're talking here about an investment of billions of shekels throughout the network. In the Beit She'an Valley, the waiting line is a mile long. The same is true for the Negev, but we're building a highway. I believe that the Eshkol Negev line, the first part of which will go into operation in late 2021, will meet the targets, and we will connect everything," Balmas said, adding that moving the conduction inspection unit from IEC to the new electricity system management company would be completed next month. The founding of this company is a key element in the electricity sector reform.
Amos Lasker, chairperson of a forum of producers of electricity using natural gas, criticized implementation of the electricity sector reform. "To my great surprise, the entire question of promoting competition in the supply segment is making no progress. It was promised that a million households would be able to benefit from competition in the supply of electricity. This is not happening, and this is where competition can really lower prices," Lasker complained, adding that entrepreneurs are not allowed to make a profit in Israel, because this would make them public enemies.
Giora Almogy, CEO of OPC Energy, a company controlled by Idan Ofer that operates the first private power station built in Israel, said, "It takes at least 10 years from the time it is decided to build a power station until it goes into operation. Entrepreneurs should be given more help. The bottom line of everything done should be competition for the consumer."
Public Utilities Authority (electricity) VP regulation and electricity Dr. Nurit Gal said, "It has been ten years since private electricity production began. We started from scratch, and today we have seven private power stations producing 3,000 megawatts of private electricity. We have gone through three periods. In the first period, we gave a great deal of protection to entrepreneurs, and they took full advantage of it. In the second period, we gave protection to new enterprises, and in the third period, a lot more competition has been created. Our role is to protect the consumer, and we will intervene with protection that was given, which is worth NIS 100-200 million. This is part of the maturing of the market."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 6, 2019
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