Helping Palestinians get renewable energy – opinion

At the world summit of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference this week, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh was present along with more than 100 other world leaders.

Palestine’s carbon footprint is small and, in reality, there is very little that Palestine could do to impact the global climate crisis in any significant way. Palestine has almost no heavy industry and hardly produces the energy it uses. There is an environmental crisis in Palestine and Palestinian towns and cities are far from clean. Garbage collection is far from adequate, recycling is almost non-existent, and overall environmental awareness is very low.

For over six years I worked for Gigawatt Global, a Jerusalem-based solar energy company registered in the Netherlands that works primarily in Africa. As country manager for Palestine, I tried to promote renewable energy on a commercial scale. I did not succeed. There is almost no possibility of building large-scale solar power projects (10 megawatts and more) in Palestine because the Palestinian Authority does not control the largest available land reserve areas.

Those areas are in Area C, the 62% of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control, and the Israeli authorities do not grant licenses to use large tracts of land in Area C for solar energy.

Furthermore, because very few Palestinians are allowed to live in Area C, the energy produced in a large solar field there would have to be transferred to areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority in the cities and towns of Areas A and B. But in order to move the electricity from Area C (if we were allowed to build a solar field there), the electricity grid would have to go from Area C to the Palestinian towns and cities in Areas A and B, but that network with its underground poles or lines would pass through Area C under Israeli control and Israeli permission is not granted.

Gigawatt Global’s 7.5 MW solar field in Burundi (credit: courtesy)

To build a commercial field in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Authority would have to provide “sovereign” guarantees to lenders and equity shareholders, but due to the very poor state of the Palestinian treasury, the Palestinian finance minister has refused to grant such Guarantees.

Without those guarantees that would provide guarantees to lenders and equity partners, the financial risks of such projects are very high and put their financial viability in doubt.

The Palestine Electricity Transmission Company Ltd., which handles the transfer of electricity, does not have sufficient track record or financial history to offer guarantees that private sector investors developing solar energy fields would receive payment for the electricity produced.

We had proposed to the World Bank that the international community invest money to create a cash fund to provide guarantees to private sector solar developers, or to provide money to Palestinian banks to issue standby letters of credit that would serve the deals. economic. We came up with those ideas years ago, but no such plan has been developed.

Instead of large commercial-scale solar fields, we came up with a proposal to replace a good part of the electricity that Palestinian municipalities purchase directly from Israel Electric Corporation. We got the main Palestinian energy authorities to draft a law that would allow Palestinian municipalities and Palestinian distribution companies to sign contracts to purchase solar-generated electricity for projects of up to one megawatt per project. We proposed that the law stipulate that electricity generated by solar energy be sold at a price that is at least 10% lower than the price of the Israeli Electric Corporation.

President Abbas signed the bill into law several years ago. However, almost nothing has happened, despite many attempts by my colleagues and myself.

There are about 100 Palestinian municipalities that buy electricity directly from Israel. Even if our proposal were implemented, they would still buy electricity from Israel because a solar field does not produce after sunset. However, this proposal, if implemented, would have reduced Palestinian dependence on Israel, reduced the cost of electricity to the Palestinian economy, and would also have put Palestine at the forefront of introducing green energy. Our estimate was that Palestine could reach 50% renewable energy during daylight hours in five years.

A one megawatt solar energy field costs about $ 1 million and requires about 12 dunams of land. Our calculations showed that the use of Palestinian labor would not only create many jobs, but the financial viability of the project would generate an investor rate of return of around 10%.

We proposed to the Palestinian Capital Markets Authority to create a collective investment platform that would allow Palestinians and others to invest relatively small amounts of money in these projects. This was a classic win-win-win-win scheme, whereby Israel’s Palestinian energy dependence would decrease and its energy independence would increase. The cost of electricity would go down and would be guaranteed for 20 years at the same price. Then Israel could reduce the amount of electricity it provides to Palestine. The environment of Israel and Palestine would be improved.

Unfortunately, despite the large amounts of money invested and lost, our plan was not successful. Palestinian municipalities, where most mayors serve for a limited number of years, refused to sign power purchase agreements for 20 years. They refused to take risks and decided to continue buying more expensive electricity from Israel.

The Palestinian Authority, the central government, refused or failed to pressure local municipalities to sign the contracts. It was very interesting that the financial aspects of the projects in question were not the main problem of the lack of success.

My offer still stands: we are prepared to come and work with any Palestinian municipality that is willing to sign a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement, for the development of solar energy for their community. It is still possible to bring Palestine to 50% renewable energy in five years. This goal can be achieved.

The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and its neighbors. He now runs The Holy Land Investment Bond.

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