The National Infrastructures Ministry says consumer cutbacks and regulations could bring it halfway to its energy efficiency goals for 2020, according to Ze'ev Gross, head of the Infrastructure Resource Management Division at the ministry.

"According to a government decision from February 2008, the goal is to save 100 billion kilowatt hours by 2020. That's a bit more than twice the entire consumption of Israel in 2006," he said.

Gross told The Jerusalem Post that the concept of savings from energy efficiency is as yet little understood here. Projects are hard to finance and government officials are suspicious of spending money now to generate savings in the future, he maintained.

Similar to the water conservation campaign, the ministry believes a campaign to encourage citizens to conserve electricity could bring down usage dramatically, he said.

To reach its goal, the ministry is focusing on two distinct spheres: non-specific consumer activity, which includes regulations, PR campaigns and educational efforts. The other sphere is specific energy efficiency projects, he said.

Each sphere will probably account for half of the intended savings, according to Gross.

The need for energy conservation in Israel is critical, Gross emphasized.

"We have electricity reserves of three percent. That's the equivalent to countries in sub-Saharan Africa!" he exclaimed. Lack of reserves could lead to blackouts if demand overwhelms supply during the hot summer months.

While Gross is sympathetic to environmental concerns, he and his department are more concerned with reducing electricity use and increasing reserves than with any emissions reductions that might result.

To that end, the ministry has been gradually implementing regulations and standards over the last few years to encourage the purchase of efficient appliances of all types.

Standards for refrigerators, home air conditioners and the ballasts for fluorescent lights have all been passed over the last five years. Gross also brought to Israel the A through F grading system, which ranks appliances according to their energy efficiency, and made it mandatory to display such information on refrigerators and air conditioners.

Currently making its way through the Knesset are regulations regarding dryers, dishwashers and electric ovens, he said.

"What I hope to have in place by 2011 is a minimum performance standard for new large air conditioning systems. We are also conducting a survey of used air conditioners to develop a statistical determination over time to create a minimum performance standard for them as well.

"With that kind of standard, the systems would have to undergo regular inspections and if they deviated from the norm, they would have to be repaired or scrapped," Gross explained.

On the projects side, he has been working on a fund to provide incentives for and subsidize energy efficiency projects and encourage private finance of such projects as well. He said he hoped the details of the fund would largely be worked out by the end of the year.



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