Israel’s domestic energy demand is expected to increase significantly in coming years as Israel moves to cleaner fuels for power generation and transportation. In 2040, 13 million people are expected to live in Israel (in comparison to approximately 9 million in 2020). Additionally, by 2040, the number of vehicles is expected to increase to 6.4 million and electricity demand will double. In light of these challenges, Israel is promoting several programs to respond to electricity consumption forecasts, while reducing pollution and increasing the use of renewable energy and natural gas.
Current Market Trends
Israel is an electricity island; its network is not connected to the systems of neighboring countries, and therefore, it has to be self-sufficient in meeting its energy demand, which has grown by 3-4% annually over the last 5 years. Overall installed capacity in 2019 totaled 17.7 GW, including parastatal company Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) (72%), and Independent Power Producers (28%). According to the Electricity Authority, installed capacity in 2030 should reach 23.35 GW in order to support the electricity consumption forecasts. In June 2018, the Government of Israel approved a comprehensive structural reform in the Israeli electricity sector, planned to be implemented over the course of 8 years (2018-2026). The reform’s main objectives are to decentralize IEC (currently the sole vertically integrated electric utility company in Israel), enhance efficiency in the electricity market, and increase competition. As part of the reform, IEC’s share in electricity generation will be reduced from 60% to 40%. IEC will retain a monopoly in the transmission and distribution segments, which require significant upgrading. It will work to develop a smart and modern grid that will improve the quality of electricity supply.
Israel’s Growth of Demand for Electricity:
Source: The Israel Electricity Authority Report on State of Electricity Sector 2019
Since the first commercial discovery of natural gas in 2000, Israel has been continuously developing its offshore gas resources. In the past 20 years, the country has been transformed from a net importer of fossil fuels to being self-sufficient and an exporter of natural gas. Coal-generated power is gradually diminishing and accounted for only 30% of Israel’s power in 2019 compared with 60% in 2015. The Israeli Ministry of Energy’s 2030 goal for electricity generation is to reach a 30% use of renewable energy and 70% natural gas, while closing all coal plants. Domestic consumption of natural gas is steadily growing and has reached 11.3 bcm in 2019 (a 10% increase from 2017.) The growth in natural gas consumption was led by the electricity sector, accounting for 83% (9.1 bcm) of generation sources.
U.S. company Noble Energy and its local partners discovered the Tamar field in 2009, that provided more than 94% of Israel’s natural gas in 2018. A more recent development by Noble Energy and its local partners is the Leviathan gas field, which started production in late 2019 and has contingent resources totaling 605 bcm of natural gas (almost double the size of Tamar, and approximately two thirds of the gas discovered to date offshore Israel).
Despite ample solar power potential, Israel fell well short of meeting previously stated renewable energy targets, producing in 2019 only 5-6% of its electricity from renewable sources. Bureaucratic bottlenecks, a lack of land resources, underdeveloped transmission infrastructure from remote generation sites, and recent discoveries of offshore gas that can produce electricity at a lower cost than solar are often cited as factors explaining the lower than expected use of renewable energy. In 2015, the Israeli Cabinet adopted a greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goal of 26% decrease in GHG emission levels by 2030, using 2005 as the base year. Targets included 17% of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030. However, recently, the Israeli Minister of Energy almost doubled the 2030 target to 30%.
This new plan earmarks $23 billion worth of investments, approximately half of which in power plants, and the remainder in storage facilities and development of the electricity infrastructure (to support transmission from remote generation sites). According to this plan, solar will account for approximately 90% of the electricity, while wind, water and biomass will provide the remaining 10%. To reach these new goals, Israel will need to increase its overall installed capacity from solar systems to 15.7 GW (more than 7 times of its capacity today – 2.24 GW). It will also need to increase overall storage capacity by 10 times from 300 MW today to approximately 3,000 MW in 2030.
Israel’s Renewable Energy Development and Projections (2012-2025)
Source: The Israel Electricity Authority Report on State of Electricity Sector 2019
Best Prospects for U.S. Exporters
Israel’s renewable energy targets for 2030 earmark $23 billion worth of investments, approximately half of which in power plants, and the remainder in storage facilities and development of the electricity infrastructure (to support transmission from remote generation sites). According to this plan, solar will account for approximately 90% of the electricity, and wind, water and biomass will provide the remaining 10%. To reach this new goal, Israel will need to increase its overall installed capacity from solar systems to 15.7 GW (more than 7 times of its capacity today – 2.24 GW). It will also need to increase overall storage capacity by 10 times from 300 MW today to approximately 3,000 MW in 2030.
The significant increase in renewable energy capacity which the Government of Israel is promoting to reach its 2030 goals presents substantial opportunities for U.S. firms, including (a) suppliers of PV, wind and storage technology and equipment; (b) suppliers of transmission equipment, for the construction of additional substations, switching stations, etc., to support new transmission infrastructure from remote generation sites; (c) IPP’s and developers to build and operate renewable energy generation plants, and (d) suppliers of systems and equipment for Net Zero-Energy Buildings.
“Infrastructure for Growth”
The current scope of infrastructure investment in Israel is lower than comparable countries around the world. To address this gap, the Israeli government is planning large scale infrastructure projects across almost all industries, and publishes annually the Infrastructure for Growth workplan, a national infrastructure strategy consolidating all projects valued at more than 100 million shekels (~$30 million) that are either in progress, budgeted or approved by the government. In 2019, the workplan included 207 projects, valued at $56 billion in total, across many industries including several projects in the energy sector. A significant portion of the projects will be implemented via a public-private partnership (PPP) model.
U.S.-Israeli joint R&D and cooperation in the renewable energy sector is growing. The BIRD Foundation was established by the U.S. and Israeli governments in 1977 to generate mutually beneficial cooperation between U.S. and Israeli companies, including start-ups and established organizations. BIRD provides both matchmaking support between U.S. and Israeli companies, as well as funding covering up to 50 percent of project development costs, up to $1M per project. Among other sectors, BIRD supports joint U.S.-Israel commercial R&D in renewable energy and energy efficiency and publishes new calls for proposals regularly.
Barriers to Trade
U.S. Embassy Jerusalem is actively pursuing improvements in the export and investment climate for U.S. firms in Israel. These efforts are focused in three specific areas: promoting internationally accepted technical standards in Israel that do not discriminate against U.S. products, protecting intellectual property rights (IPR), and establishing greater transparency in Israel’s public procurement process.
Israel is a small market and mature in many sectors. Consequently, U.S. companies will face significant local and international competition. Additionally, Israel’s strong commercial ties with Europe have led Israel to adopt European Union (EU) technical standards – over international standards – in some industries. This has created obstacles both for U.S. companies that have been doing business in Israel for many years and for new-to-market companies.
While there are substantial opportunities related to large infrastructure projects across many sectors, including energy, many of these projects are based on a public-private partnership financing model. It is often challenging for U.S. small and medium-sized enterprises to allocate the initial capital required for this type of project.
U.S. Commercial Service Contact Information
For additional information, please contact:
U.S. Commercial Service Israel