Energy Forum 43: Breaking Israel's energy isolation

Cite As:
Grossman Gershon, Shapira Naama. Energy Forum 43: Breaking Israel's energy isolation Haifa Israel: Samuel Neaman Institute, 2018.

The Israeli energy market has unique characteristics. One of its main problems is that the state is isolated from its neighbors in terms of energy supply and export, making it a kind of "energy island." This applies to various fuels, such as natural gas, and to electricity: the state provides itself with electricity and is not connected to an external transmission grid. The reasons are, of course, mainly geopolitical, because if an energy connection existed it could contribute to strengthen Israel's energy survival, although this should also be examined against other alternatives that supposedly may also contribute to energy security in times of emergency.

The breaking of Israel's energy isolation has two aspects: the more important one is energy security and the second concerns the question of whether the breaking of the isolation can be used as a lever for improving the economic situation of the State of Israel. Energy security has two sides: On the one hand, there is security in terms of hostile confrontations, that is, the survivability of the systems under conditions of warfare, which occur relatively frequently in Israel in comparison with the rest of the world; on the other hand, climate changes, which are taking place in front of our eyes - we still do not realize the full extent of their severity and how this will affect the stability in the region.

Even if the isolation is lifted, Israel must be able to supply its needs continuously, alone and without needing any other sources. Breaking the isolation has also other aspects: as a lever to create a basis for regional cooperation and to diversify energy sources, which is beneficial in an environment of uncertainty (because of both the climate change and security aspects).

Israel has two assets that can be used, at least partially, to break the energy isolation in which it finds itself. One is the country’s sources of natural gas that can be exported. The other is technological know-how and expertise in areas that can be of great help to neighboring countries, for example, in the field of desalination.

Following are some recommendations made by some of the participants during the discussion:

  1. Sources of natural gas
  • The implementation of the use of gas in Israel should be further strengthened in order to strengthen the country's energy independence.
  • Israel should focus on exporting its gas to its neighboring countries: Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, and Cyprus. Exports can be used as a political lever for improving diplomatic relations.
  • It is recommended that the lifting of Israel's isolation be ensured by cooperation that will enable the transmission of natural gas by sales and, if necessary, by purchase.
  1. Regional cooperation

Any investment in a regional energy project is an investment in Israel's national security. An examination of the applicability of regional cooperation projects that are mutually beneficial is proposed, for example:

  • A project that will include the solar electricity generation in Jordan, which has ideal conditions for it, and its use for desalination in Israel, where the technology in the field is well developed.
  • A project involving an underwater power cable between Israel and Cyprus. Cyprus will be able to develop its natural gas reservoir, Aphrodite, to produce electricity from gas instead of from diesel fuel and supply surpluses to Israel. For Israel, this would mean a significant break of its energy isolation, with the possibility of a future connection to the European grid.
  1. Supply of liquefied natural gas
  • It is proposed to set up another station or two of buoys for the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
  • Israel can lease an LNG vessel that will travel around the world, and during an emergency be able to arrive in Israel at 10 days to 2 weeks’ notice.
  1. Investment in R & D and development of storage infrastructures

Storage increases energy security and investments in this field and its costs can be traded off against the excessive expense of using diesel fuel.

  • It is recommended that research and development on the subject of electricity storage be supported.

It is recommended that infrastructures be developed for storing natural gas.

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