Israel lauded for ditching coal – for gas

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The state of Israel has made headlines by adding its voice to the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) and committing to phase out coal for electricity production by 2030.

Although the announcement has clearly been timed to coincide with the closing of last week’s COP24 climate change conference in Katowice – and will be welcomed by anti coal groups – it is merely restating an intent announced by Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz in October.

Unveiling his “energy sector rescue plan” on the Israeli Ministry of Energy website two months ago, Dr. Steinitz pledged to shutter the nation’s Hadera and Ashkelon coal power plants and source 80% of its electric power from natural gas and the remainder from renewables by 2030.

Dr. Steinitz said, in a press release announcing the strategy, the move was being made “to rescue the state of Israel which, if this plan is not implemented, will move towards a catastrophe”.

Israel’s environmental concerns appear to be more towards the air pollution suffered by its citizens than containing greenhouse gas emissions, judging by the heavy emphasis on gas as the replacement energy source. With the energy rescue plan foreseeing 95% of electricity production for industry from gas in 12 years’ time, and a “gradual switch” to gas-powered – rather than electric – vehicles, the occurrence of potently heat trapping methane emissions from the gas appears set to rise markedly.

The PPCA lobby group was launched by Canada and the U.K. at last year’s COP conference, and came at a time when traditional Israeli ally the U.S. and neighboring Canada were driving down the price of natural gas by exploiting vast shale gas deposits. The U.K. government this year issued its first fracking licence, to open up its own gas supply.