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Erdan: Pull plug on Gaza to avoid Israel shortages (JERUSALEM POST) By SHARON UDASIN 05/14/12)Source: http://www.jpost.com/Sci-Tech/Article.aspx?id=269797 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
In the face of probable electricity blackouts at home this coming summer, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan called on the government Sunday morning to cease supplying power to the Gaza Strip.

Before deliberately cutting supplies to residents of Israel, the government must reconsider its policy of providing electricity to the Hamas “terror authority” in Gaza. Asserting that he had no intention of sanctioning Gaza, and certainly not its residents, Erdan explained that terminating the power supply was simply a matter of recognizing the biblical phrase, “the poor of your city come first,” according to a letter he sent the other ministers.

“As a minister of environmental protection, they demanded that I give permission to activate power plants with fuels that are polluting and will cause more pollution than what can occur by the Israeli law, by international standards,” Erdan told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday evening. “But I have to approve it because if there would be no electricity people might die.”

Even after adopting a series of measures proposed by Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau to handle the shortage, which the cabinet approved on Sunday afternoon, the government would still likely not be able to provide a completely stable electricity supply throughout the summer, Erdan argued. This, after taking such extreme measures as reactivating the Reading natural gas power plant as a heavy fuel operator, he added.

“After taking all these steps it will still have to cut electricity to places in Israel, to citizens in Israel that are paying their bills,” Erdan said. “It’s illogical and it’s immoral not to start with the people in Gaza. In Gaza we are not obliged to supply electricity.”

Currently, Israel allocates about 4.5 percent of its electricity production to the Palestinian Authority, of which less than half – around 160 megawatts – it allocates to Gaza, according to the minister.

“Those are exactly the 160 megawatts you need [in Israel] when the demands are very high,” Erdan said.

While there is a power plant in Gaza, the facility is only operating at 30% because the Palestinian Authority asked Israel to stop bringing in diesel and fuel oil to the strip, as Hamas was not paying its bills properly to the PA, according to Erdan.

In response to Erdan’s suggestion, the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority – under the leadership of Dr. Omar Kittenah – said it “strongly condemns” Erdan´s proposal and charged that such a decision would deprive 1.7% of Palestinians of a basic need.

“We consider these remarks a clear threat targeting the Palestinian people and genocide against our people and their rights,” the authority said in a statement. “We see these remarks as a continuation of the crime against our people, which began in 2006 with the bombing of the power plant and imposing the blockade.”

Erdan’s remarks would not break the steadfastness of the Palestinians, the authority stressed.

After hearing the Palestinian response, Erdan stressed that Israel is doing whatever it can to continue helping them, “even when they don’t cooperate.”

“I really feel mercy for the people in Gaza that they don’t understand that the money their regime is getting from around the world – instead of being used for building infrastructure and energy, is being used for weaponry,” he told the Post.

“We are willing to help them with everything,” Erdan said. “But what can we do when seven years after the disengagement, instead of using the money to develop power plants or desalination, everything is going to be missiles.”

Erdan was not worried about how Israel’s global image would be affected by such a decision, as “in every decision we take in Israel, someone criticizes Israel of course,” according to the minister.

“It’s not as a punishment – we will supply them whatever we can,” Erdan continued. “It’s not that we don’t want to supply them, it’s that we can’t – we are out of electricity.”

Several ministers quietly agreed with Erdan’s suggestion, but said it would best be kept separate from the summer shortage proposals, a source told the Post.

Dr. Brenda Shaffer, an expert on energy policy and management in the School of Political Science at the University of Haifa, said she felt that “there are a lot of easier things to do than saying just cut off their supply.”

For example, Shaffer explained, Israel could have allowed for the development of the 30 BCM Gaza Marine natural gas field.

“We have an interest that they would be producing electricity from natural gas instead of diesel,” she said.

In addition, Israel could reduce the operations of some of its high- power consuming industries, like Haifa Oil Refineries, according to Shaffer.

Landau, meanwhile, responded at the beginning of the cabinet meeting that his ministry is dealing with finding solutions to the shortages, and will be focusing on that alone.

During Sunday´s cabinet meeting, the government approved Landau´s proposals for handling the expected power shortages that he had unveiled last week, with a few amendments from the original draft version.

The official shortage period in the approved version was extended through October 31, thereby eliminating the minister’s initial authority to lengthen the period an additional three months. The new version of the proposal also called for an assessment of the Reading power plant in Tel Aviv.

While Landau´s original proposal recommended a 30-megawatt increase in solar rooftop allocations for the summer, which would need to be installed by July 1, the approved draft extended that deadline to August 1, and brought forward the 2014 solar rooftop quota of 35 megawatts for use now.

Environmentalists who had initially criticized Landau´s timetable as too short and unrealistic now welcomed the adjusted provision.

"The decision is just one step in the right direction," said Eitan Parness, CEO of the Renewable Energy Association of Israel. "The government has accepted the demand of the green organizations and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and has recognized the validity of solar power as a means to tackle the expected electricity shortage."

Parness urged the Public Utility Authority and the Israel Electric Corporation to act swiftly in order to implement the government decision as efficiently as possible.

"In the next coming years, we will see solar power growing and thousands of new solar roof tops and solar power plants will change the way electricity is produced," Parness continued. "This is a small victory in terms of megawatts, but a big one for all the promoters of green electricity in Israel."

Whereas in 2010, Israel produced 3.2 BCM of gas of its own from Yam Tethys and received 2.1 BCM from Egypt, in 2011 it produced 4.3 BCM from Yam Tethys, received 0.7 BCM from Egypt and had a shortage of 1.7 BCM. In 2012, producing about 2.4 BCM from Yam Tethys, Israel is expected to have a natural gas shortage of about 4.9 BCM, the Natural Gas Authority reported. This summer, the country will have a reserve of only 6.4% – or 776 megawatts – during peak electricity demand hours, according to the authority.

Some principle stipulations of Landau’s now approved proposal include the expansion of electricity supply, by means of diesel generators and transportable gas turbines, as well as an ability to activate these generators without limitations.

The proposal also suggests shifting some quantities of gas in cases of emergency from the Essential Service Supplier – the IEC or East Jerusalem Electric Company – to partially or fully paralyzed private power plants.

Stressing that the public must be made aware of the upcoming shortages, the proposal suggests reducing power usage among consumptions. Meanwhile, military bases should join the "mobile summit" framework, which requires that mobile generators not operate more than 100 hours per year.

Both Landau and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the cabinet’s decision to approve the summer plans.

“The government made an important decision today, which will allow the state to better prepare for the expected power drought this summer,” Landau said. “Cooperation between the ministries to implement the decision is crucial, in order to prevent blackouts.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/14/12)

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