Palestinians turn to the sun to reduce their power shortfall

12 August 2018

News & Press Release

From orderly rows of solar panels in a field in the West Bank to the chaotic rooftops of Gaza, Palestinians are hoping that harnessing the energy of the sun can reduce their dependence on Israel for electricity.

The West Bank only gets around three-quarters of the power its 3 million people need, imported mostly from Israel and, to a far lesser extent, Jordan.

In the Gaza Strip, power generation is so paltry that, even with imports from Israel and Egypt, it gets just one-third of what it needs - so the 2 million Gazans struggle on with an average of just four hours of electricity a day.

Individuals have taken it on themselves to install solar panels, trailing cables down the side of buildings to keep fans whirring or to power televisions and other appliances.

The number of panels in the enclave has increased four-fold in four years and they are now dotted on most rooftops and balcony on homes, schools, hospitals, shops, banks and mosques in a place where the sun shines 320 days a year.

The sun may be free, but the technology is not, and Palestinians say their ability to import solar panels has been hampered by Israeli border controls.

In Gaza, which has endured years of Israeli and Egyptian sanctions aimed at isolating Islamist Hamas which rules the territory, tensions raised by weekly border protest since March 30 have increased the problem.

Israel has blocked all imports into the enclave except for humanitarian supplies.

In the West Bank, ruled by President Mahmoud Abbas’s Western-backed Palestinian Authority, the public and private sectors have launched projects to diversify power sources to get cheaper electricity and more self-sufficiency.

“The government is in dire need of individual initiatives and investments to provide power so that it can become independent of the occupation (Israel), step by step,” Shifa’ Abu Sa’adi, head of natural resources at the Palestinian economy ministry, told Reuters.

The Authority’s Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF) plans to build three solar farms and put solar energy into 500 schools. The three new plants will generate 22 megawatts per day. The West Bank needs 1,400 megawatts but currently only 1,100 megawatts are available.

The Gaza Strip only has one power plant, which generated 140 megawatts in 1999 when it was built but now only produces 23 megawatts. The enclave imports 30 megawatts from Egypt and 120 from Israel. This is less than a third of the Strip’s daily needs - estimated at up to 600 megawatts a day.

Last week the European Union completed Gaza’s biggest solar farm which will provide 0.5 megawatts per day to fuel the Southern Gaza Desalination Plant, also funded by the EU.


Source: Reuters, 9 August 2018

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