Event Reports

Energy Efficiency in Israel and the Palestinian Territories

by Evelyn Gaiser
As part of the event series "Sustainability, Climate and Energy", the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung invited Israeli and Palestinian representatives from the business sector, academia, government and politics to a workshop. The event took place on 22 April 2012 and after an intense working session, recommendations for more energy efficiency in Israel and the Palestinian Territories were developed.

Felix Dane, Director of KAS Ramallah, and Nadine Mensel, Deputy Director of KAS Israel, welcomed the participants and emphasized on the importance of an efficient use of energy. Felix Dane indicated that the intended phase out of nuclear energy in Germany in combination with investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency could serve as a model for Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Nadine Mensel underlined the special meaning of such an event at a time when Israeli-Palestinian meetings were difficult to realize. It is by no means self-evident that Israelis and Palestinians jointly develop recommendations for action. The promotion of energy efficiency is of paramount importance for both sides and new opportunities for cooperation could arise.

Afterwards, the Co-Directors of IPCRI, Riman Barakat and Dan Goldenblatt, gave an overview of the energy situation in the Palestinian Territories and Israel. Riman Barakat especially elaborated on the necessary implementation of dual decisions: political top-down regulations complemented by bottom-up initiatives are needed in order to achieve progress. Basically, energy efficiency was very closely linked to the behavior and habits of individuals. Financial assistance for the Palestinian Territories did not always reach its actual determination. Hence, she called for more cooperation and coordination between Israeli and Palestinian government officials to ensure a transparent flow of funds.

Dan Goldenblatt draw attention to an expected energy crisis for the summer of 2012. Massive power outages were very likely making appropriate actions absolutely necessary. The use of renewable energy sources should be promoted so as to provide an alternative to scarce natural resources and protect the environment. In that regard, he praised the German energy policy, adding that energy efficiency would not result into decreasing living standards. Rather, a private household's budget could become more economical if energy consumption was reduced significantly. A particular challenge was to convince the private sector to invest in energy efficiency. At first, enterprises were expected to have additional financial expenses after in the course of increasing energy efficiency. So a long way was still ahead and that workshop was particularly meaningful.

Turning specifically to energy policies, the head of the Department for Energy Conservation from the Israeli Ministry of Energy and Water, and a representative from the Palestinian energy sector reported on various efforts to enhance energy efficiency in Israel and the Palestinian territories. . Pointing to the national energy efficiency program, the Israeli representative presented his department's approach to curb the energy crisis, aiming at reducing energy consumption significantly by 2020. Respective measures are: to introduce standardized energy labels for electronic devices, to create awareness through education and educational campaigns. During the ensuing discussion it became obvious that in this area, so far, the cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Territories is almost non-existent.

The Palestinian representative acknowledged the Israeli concept, adding that such an approach would be of added value for the Palestinian Territories as well. On the Palestinian side, where measures for more energy efficiency are still only marginally developed, was an urgent need for action. The speaker remarked on a first breakthrough for the development of renewable energy sources pointing to the medium-scale installation of solar water heaters. However, the energy policy of the Palestinian Authority was still leaving a lot of wishes unfulfilled. He emphasized his eagerness to be open for improvements and to learn from the concepts of the neighbours.

During the working sessions, the participants chose three different topics to develop recommendations on the following issues:

1. How to reach the people?

2. Energy efficiency in public institutions.

3. Energy efficiency as a means for cooperation.

In a constructive atmosphere, the workshop participants exchanged their expertise, came up with recommendations and presented options how to implement those. The discussion was focused and practical, and more importantly, political differences fell by the wayside.

Energy efficiency should become a topic of top priority to the public. To reach this goal the first working group proposed three components: visibility, education and motivation. Stressing the subject of saving energy, campaigns can prove to be a helpful method to raise the public's awareness. To promote the sustainable use of energy, you must bring the children on board. Through knowledge transfer one can influence habits and behavior in the long run. It is paramount that these issues should be integrated into curricula and taught at kindergarten, school and university. But in order to reach an appropriate level of implementation and convince the parents budget wise one needs to think of economic incentives created by subsidized or public funded procurement of energy saving devices. Moreover, to carry out those ideas, an enforced legal framework is required to reach certain standards in private and public buildings.

The second working group dealt with guidelines for public buildings that could turn into role models, particularly with regard to renovation or construction of schools, hospitals, government offices etc. Quite far-reaching is the "White Paper for Sustainable Building", issued by the Department of Environmental Management of the Municipality of Jerusalem. To save energy, the consumption ought to be monitored through data collection and systematic energy audits. If energy efficiency is measured, comparing data will be possible. Competitions would be a good basis in order to promote innovative ideas and their implementation. For example, a contest between schools and communities could lead to the invention of more energy-efficient models.

Discussing possibilities of cooperation in the field of energy efficiency between Israel and the Palestinian Territories or the public and the private sector, the third working group proposed several ideas. Israel has been running for some time a campaign to replace old refrigerators with equipment that meets energy efficiency criteria. It is worthwhile thinking about to launch a similar campaign in the Palestinian Territories. But in order to ensure success the replaced equipment should actually be recycled and must not appear in poorer households.

The presentations and the results of the working groups shed some light on the differences between Israel and the Palestinian Territories in terms of implementing energy efficient measures and policies. Throughout the discussion, Israeli officials offered support in this regard, information and materials were exchanged and networking proved to be quite successful. The participants emphasized the great relevance of this topic for both sides and called for increased efforts to form a public awareness of the problem. Action will also be required from the political level. Too often, funds got stuck or cannot be disbursed due to disagreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, or corruption prevented the promotion of measures to improve energy efficiency.

The participants expressed a strong interest in more events of that kind.

Wibke Foß and Evelyn Gaiser