Israel is planning to install solar panels on all new non-residential buildings to help it meet renewable energy targets and the electricity demands of a fast-growing population. The country has favorable conditions for solar energy production due to its abundant sunlight but it’s struggling with lack of land for solar farms.
1. Climate targets
The Israeli government, along with private companies and organizations, has implemented various initiatives to encourage the installation of solar panels on rooftops. These efforts aim to increase the share of renewable energy in the country’s electricity generation and reduce reliance on fossil fuels — since it has fallen behind schedule on its goal to get 30% of electricity from renewables by 2030. Wind power and hydropower are not options for the Middle Eastern country.
When passing the state budget last month, the government, led by PM Benjamin Netanyahu, ordered regulation to be in place within 180 days to require new non-residential buildings to be covered with solar panels. For residential buildings, the roof must be properly equipped for the future installation of panels.
2. Energy crisis
According to the Israeli media outlet Haaretz, the Director General of the National Planning and Building Council (NPBC), Rafi Elmaleh, said Israel was “already in a severe energy crisis,” and pointed to the recent blackouts in many areas of the country due to demand overload amid a heatwave. As a potential solution, the NPBC approved a proposal to allocate 10,000 acres of land in open areas for solar power facilities.
3. Land use
However, the government’s decision is opposed by the Environment Ministry which argues better use can be made of the existing dedicated open areas and that solar panels can be installed on roof space in built-up regions, rather than appropriating more land from the countryside. Most of Israel’s commercial solar fields have been built in the southern Negev desert or remote areas to the north.
“Beyond the problem of electricity getting lost in long-distance transit to the centre of the country, it is important to maintain open spaces. You can’t just cover the entire Negev desert in solar panels,” RonEifer, who heads the Energy Ministry’s sustainable energy division, told Reuters.
“So we need a mix of ground-based solar, which is cheapest and can be built en masse, and dual-use, which can be built on rooftops directly where there is demand for electricity,” he added. Around 60% will eventually be dual-use, he said, referring to solar panels that serve as roofing as well as to generate power.