Israel to cover all new non-residential buildings with solar panels

The nation has ambitious goal to get 30 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030.
Loukia Papadopoulos


What do you do if you have substantial energy goals but little space? Israel has required all new non-residential buildings to have rooftop solar panels to help the tiny nation meet renewable energy targets and the rapidly expanding population's electricity demands.

This is according to a report by Reuters published on Tuesday.

Although the country has ample sunlight, its circumference is too small to rely on traditional, land-intensive photovoltaic power plants. Wind power and hydropower are also not options for the nation.

Ron Eifer, who heads the Energy Ministry's sustainable energy division, told Reuters that Israel significantly depends on the sun as a renewable source but lacks the land for solar farms.

As such, it is lagging behind schedule on its ambitious goal to get 30 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030.

"We have to take some dramatic steps," Eifer said.

These steps mean that the government has ordered regulations to be in place within 180 days to require new non-residential buildings to be equipped with solar panels on their roofs. Last month, the motion was passed at a meeting to pass the state budget.

Experience in the nation shows that such initiatives can indeed work. Decades ago, the government required residents to use sun-powered water heaters. Today those heaters allow the country to save 8 percent of electricity.

Unfortunately, most of Israel's commercial solar fields have been built in the southern Negev desert, far from the biggest, most populated cities.

"Beyond the problem of electricity getting lost in long-distance transit to the country's center, it is important to maintain open spaces. You can't just cover the entire Negev desert in solar panels," Eifer said.

"So we need a mix of ground-based solar, which is cheapest and can be built en masse, and dual-use, which can be built on rooftops directly where there is demand for electricity."

Eifer added that about 60 percent of the new panels would eventually be dual-use, roofing, and generating power.

Environmental campaigners were happy with the new solar policy but argued that more must be done.

So far, they have been critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government over ecologically harmful decisions made this year.

Amit Bracha, executive director of the environmental watchdog Adam Teva V'din, told Reuters the mandate was "important news, even if still a drop in the ocean as an incentive for putting photovoltaic installations on roofs."

Bracha also pointed to initiatives such as loans and green bonds offered by developed countries to promote renewable energy as key to achieving broader economic support.