By: George Kurzom
Solar cells spread throughout the Gaza Strip
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
The share of renewable energy in Israeli electricity production is very small, as it did not exceed 2% of the total electricity production. This is despite the official Israeli government statement that, by 2020, Israel will produce 10% of its energy from renewable sources.
What is remarkable, according to the Green Energy Association of Israel, is that the number of solar energy companies in Israel has declined in recent years, from about 130 companies in 2010 to less than 60 companies currently. The "Israeli looting" of huge quantities of Palestinian natural gas during the last decade has led to a decline in the Israeli government's interest in renewable energy.
With the miserable scene in the field of renewable energies in Israel, Israel boasts of being a pioneer in the field of clean energies, when in fact, it is one of a small group of countries (25 countries only) that does not have an approved plan to deal with the climate crisis, nor is there any climate law in Israel and it has not officially declared a climate emergency, and does not even have an approved carbon tax.
Paradoxically, Israel tried to market itself at the last international climate conference in Glasgow (COP26) as being at the forefront of countries in the field of developing and using renewable energies. And had representatives which consisted of a huge delegation which was one of the biggest “about 120 representatives” which included ministers, government’s employees, representatives of the private sector as well as experts and academics.
Israel pledged at the conference that it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 27% by 2030, and even if this is achieved on the ground, it remains far from the pledge of many countries in the world including the European Union to reduce their emissions by 45% by 2030.
Gaza challenges the lack of electricity
In contrast to Israel’s hypocrisy about the climate, we find that the siege and starvation practiced by the Israeli occupation against our people in the Gaza Strip, for nearly sixteen years, did not make them become complacent to the occupier, but rather became more determined to challenge the occupier and be more technically innovative and approach more scientific achievements to meet their daily needs, including electrical energy. For many years, Gazans have embarked on expanding the infrastructure for renewable energies, specifically by making use of solar energy by using photovoltaic solar panels. It has become common to see these panels in public and residential buildings and are widely used across Gaza Strip.
It is known that Gaza Strip, due to the brutal siege, suffers from a very severe shortage of electricity. Especially since the official electrical system currently operates on a schedule of 8-hour on followed by 8 hours off.
The available data indicates that the residents of Gaza Strip have learned how to deal with the lack of electricity with the help of solar energy.
About ten years ago, the scope of use of this energy source was limited. Today, a quarter of the electricity generation in Gaza is produced by solar panels. In other words, the share of renewable energy in the total electrical energy consumed in the Gaza Strip exceeded what exists in Israel itself, despite the Israel’s huge technological and scientific capabilities that are not comparable to the small area of Gaza Strip compared to the total area of historical Palestine.
To further explain the extent of the increase in the production of electricity from solar energy, it is worth noting that the number of solar energy source sites in the Gaza Strip increased from 591 in 2015 to 3,456 in 2017 (New Political Economy, April 2021). The spread of solar designs is wide and includes not only Gaza cities, but also refugee camps, about 96% of solar panels are installed on the roofs of agricultural buildings or dwellings.
The energy provided by the panels is used to charge the batteries that supply electricity. The process of building the panels accelerated due to the successive Israeli wars against the Gaza Strip, which resulted in major and dangerous failures in the electricity network, and thus the importance of solar panels increased as an alternative source of energy.
The spread of renewable energy technology was facilitated by the fact that Israel did not deal with solar panels as a problematic security issue, and therefore no restrictions were placed on the entry of the panels into the Gaza Strip, unlike building materials or liquid fuels that Israel claims can be used in building tunnels and other military uses.
Moreover, the absence of an effective central government capable of solving the electricity crisis, and the absence of economic figures capable of investing in this field - led to the entry of some international organizations to the scene that worked to transfer budgets to a group of contractors and non-governmental organizations who helped in constructing Solar installations on the roofs of buildings.
The irony is that the absence of regulations of the energy sector in Gaza has practically helped the spread of solar energy facilities, because it allowed the rapid installation and operation of panels. The global decline in solar cell prices also contributed to increasing the economic feasibility of the solar energy source for the low-income population in particular.
Translated by: Rasha Abu Dayyeh