Thursday, April 15, 2021

The issue of accessing energy in Palestine

By Anna Donati - October 29, 2018
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [electricity] [Area C] [sustainability] [Susiya]

Through sustainable energy production for villages not connected to the grid, the renewable energy project in Palestine aims to make the Palestinian people socially and economically self-reliant.  

In Palestine, people pay their electricity up to three times more than Israel. There are some renewable mini-projects, but not enough for the population.
Of the 5.3 gigawatts of electricity consumed in the West Bank, 90% is produced in Israel. This energy dependence is detrimental to the Palestinian population as well as to the economic development of the Occupied Territories.
"It's a nightmare that haunts many Palestinians. In a few seconds, if the occupying power, Israel, decides, their territories could be plunged almost completely in the dark,” Ahlam Al-Khatib, the press officer of the Palestinian energy authority told Palestine Monitor.
The bill is in some areas the responsibility of local authorities or the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The Israeli occupation regularly claims the bills for electricity, purchased by the Palestinian Authority, are unpaid. Subsequently, Israel does not hesitate to leave entire cities without electricity to force them to pay up.
"The Israeli power company is asking Palestinians for $396 million in unpaid electricity for the West Bank and East Jerusalem," Ahlam Al-Khatib said.
When Palestinian electricity distributors (municipalities, village councils and distribution companies) fail to pay the Israel Electric Corporation, Israel deducts all remaining balances to pay and lumps it into the PA’s bill.
These deductions are made by Israel without the consent of the Palestinian Authority and can not be verified unilaterally, according to the World Bank.
In addition to the issue of unpaid debts and difficult relations with the Israeli occupier, the Palestinian Territories also suffer from the weakness of the distribution network, as a result of the occupation and non-existence of a Palestinian state.
Just over 4% of Palestinian communities are not connected to an electricity grid, according to Ahlam Al-Khatib.
Most of these independent villages are located in the Hebron governorate in the southern West Bank.
Elad Orian and his partner Noam Dotan facilitate the COMET 'sustainable rural electrification’ project during their free time, but it has proven itself.
In the summer of 2008, they installed 20 solar systems of their manufacture in the village of Susya, in the Hebron region, one of the poorest areas in Palestine (with the Jordan Valley), according to Orian.
They also organized a workshop on wind turbines for Palestinians from across the West Bank, with the help of international volunteers and many Palestinian villagers.
The Comet-ME (Community, Energy and Technology in the Middle East) association helps the most marginalized Palestinian populations by the Israeli occupation to regain their autonomy in their daily lives by setting up solutions with them, such as; production of energy not connected to the electricity grid, including solar and wind energy.
The village of Susya falls into Area C - under full Israeli military control. Any civilian installation is prohibited by Israel.
“So you are in the presence of a ridiculous, but terrible, situation where high-voltage lines pass through villages, but without serving them. Or they are crossed by a huge aqueduct, but are not connected to the water distribution network,” Elad Orian explained the system of Israel only serving Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
The connection to the electricity network is impossible under occupation in this region. That's why ideologically, the association Comet-ME wanted to put in place renewable energy.
But when Palestinians attempt to diversify their energy sources, the projects are often destroyed by Israel.
"That's what happened near Bethlehem, where Israeli occupying forces destroyed about 60 solar panels donated by the Netherlands, under the pretense that they were put in place without approval, which is impossible to obtain from Israel in Area C (an area that accounts for 61% of the West Bank and is under Israel's total control),” Al-Khatib said.
But the projects continue, not only a way to resist the occupation, but also to start living up to ecological standards.
"On an ideological level, we prefer to have clean renewable energy than those generators that release large amounts of CO2 and other pollutants," Orian explained.
The idea of ​​the association is to use technology to empower the population. It is about reducing its dependence on the outside, rather than making it even more dependent on things over which the local population has no control, such as diesel and oil prices.
Even if the initial investment is high, renewable systems have the advantage, once operational, to make the population more independent.
It is better equipped to withstand external shocks, the vagaries of geopolitics, all things over which the population has no control.
It is also necessary to know that, on the purely technical level, to supply a diesel generator able to work a long time and feed a whole village is not a small matter.
"It's not one of those little generators you buy at the local hardware store. You have to buy big generators, which run at low speeds. So if you take everything into account, it will probably be more expensive than a renewable system (and it will be much more polluting),” Orian said.
The choice of renewable energies therefore became logical and the local population became an actor in these constructions.
"We make the decisions, we prioritize our needs and determine exactly what we are going to build together. It's a long process. But the purpose is very useful for my family and neighborhoods,” Mhamad, a Susya resident told Palestine Monitor.

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