Israel Harnesses Rooftops for Renewable Energy Revolution

In a bid to meet renewable energy goals and cater to a growing population’s electricity needs, Israel has introduced a new requirement for all new non-residential buildings. These structures, whether it’s a school, parking garage, or cowshed, will now be mandated to have rooftop solar panels.

Despite abundant sunshine, Israel faces land constraints that limit the viability of traditional photovoltaic power plants. The country’s geographical characteristics also make wind and hydropower unfeasible. Ron Eifer, head of the Energy Ministry’s sustainable energy division, highlighted Israel’s unique position as a developed nation heavily reliant on solar energy due to land scarcity.

To expedite progress towards their target of sourcing 30% of electricity from renewables by 2030, Israel is taking decisive action. The recent passing of the state budget prompted the government to establish regulations within 180 days, making it compulsory for new non-residential buildings to incorporate solar panels on their rooftops. Moreover, residential buildings will require rooftop infrastructure that facilitates convenient panel installation at a later stage.

Israel previously witnessed success with a similar initiative when it mandated the use of solar-powered water heaters among residents. Today, these heaters dominate the urban landscape, contributing significantly to electricity production. Without them, Israel would need to generate an additional 8% of electricity.

While most commercial solar fields are located in remote areas far from major cities, Eifer emphasized the importance of maintaining open spaces and minimizing transmission losses. Balancing ground-based solar farms with dual-use installations, where solar panels serve as both roofing and power generators, is key. He projected that around 60% of future installations would adopt this dual-use approach.

Environmental activists have voiced criticism regarding the government’s decisions on eco-friendly policies, such as repealing a tax on disposable plastics and attempts to limit clean air regulations. However, they welcomed the new solar policy, acknowledging its significance while emphasizing the need for additional actions.

Amit Bracha, executive director of environmental watchdog Adam Teva V’din, recognized the solar mandate as important news, albeit a small step towards promoting photovoltaic installations on roofs. Bracha highlighted that many developed nations offer broader economic support, including loans and green bonds, to encourage renewable energy. Meanwhile, Israel’s incentives comprise permit exemptions, tax benefits, and premium payments for electricity generated by small producers.