Some 60 experts, including representatives of four ministries in Israel and two in France, joined forces at a two-day seminar on Options for Sustainable Energy in July. The dialogue, co-organized by JIIS Environmental Policy Center, the French NGO Passages/ADAPes, and the Samuel Neaman Institute of the Technion,
addressed global and national issues, in an attempt to better define criteria for policymaking, to widen the range of options under consideration and to review the effectiveness of measures for policy implementation. EPC Director Valerie Brachya (seen here with French colleagues Sylvain Hercberg and Benoit Lefevre helped summarize the key messages of the seminar:
There is no shortage of energy sources; the issue is not availability but accessibility, affordability and environmental obligations. Geopolitical factors need to be taken into account but energy security is no longer the dominating factor in formulating energy strategies in Israel. Nuclear energy is now widely recognized around the world as a possibility for providing electricity without generating greenhouse gas emissions. As technologies in this field improve to cope with wastes and safety issues, it may become increasingly accepted as sustainable. Precedents exist around the world which separate security issues from nuclear electricity generation. In parallel, developments in solar energy and other renewable resources should enable their wider use in the future as both land take (or spatial requirements) and costs are reduced.
The most economic option for energy policy is conservation and saving. Government investment in energy efficiency is likely to bring a far higher environmental benefit than heavy investment in the encouragement of current technologies for solar energy, for example.
Digital technologies can help improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through "smart" tramsmission systems, sensors and monitoring systems. Israel's high-tech expertise can facilitate this, including the protection of energy networks from disruption. But technology is not the sole answer – or remedy. Society must also be willing to accept changes to currently unsustainable patterns of behavior. Further research is needed as much to promote technological advances as to identify where lifestyles changes could be expected, without reducing the quality of life or creating an unacceptable invasion of privacy for household consumption.
Today's investments in energy, transportation and other infrastructures will determine energy sustainability for many future decades. Flexibility in design and management is thus needed to enable infrastructures to incorporate technological advance and exploit more sustainable options as they become commercially available – and to refrain from locking-in outdated technologies.
The dialogue will continue through periodical meetings, in Paris and Jerusalem.