Netanyahu’s Africa Trip Pays Off in $1 Billion Solar Deal

Israel solar
A view of the Gigawatt Global Rwanda solar field.
(Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s trip to a summit of West African nations in Liberia, it was announced that an Israeli company will spearhead solar projects in the region worth an estimated $1 billion, The Times of Israel reported.

The deal was reportedly concluded on Sunday at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) gathering in Monrovia, the Liberian capital.

Yerushalayim-based Energiya Global is slated to start things off with a $20 million solar field adjacent to Liberia’s main airport. The 10-megawatt installation is intended as a model for similar fields in other ECOWAS countries.

Another company, Gigawatt Global, is looking at the potential for solar fields in ten African countries. In Rwanda, the 7.8-megawatt solar field it opened in 2015 now produces approximately 5 percent of the country’s electricity.

Energiya Global CEO Yossi Abramowitz argued that solar is an attractive solution for Africa:

“If they have energy in these countries, they’re using heavy fuel oil, which is super expensive, super polluting, and super greenhouse gas emitting,” he said. “Why should the poorest people on the planet, who may only have electricity if they’re lucky, pay the highest possible amount for the worst kind of electricity? The economics is much easier here than trying to duke it out with cheap natural gas in the Mediterranean.”

Ironically, it may be that Africa is pulling ahead of Israel itself in development of solar power.

“It’s much better to do solar today in Africa than in Israel,” said Abramowitz. “Because here, they want you.”

“You can find so many creative solutions for solar and energy collection, but the bureaucracy creates the situation that many startups that have solutions don’t get off the ground.”

Israel lags behind other OECD countries in renewable energy development. It announced in 2015 that as part of the Paris Accord it aims to derive 10 percent of the country’s energy from renewable sources including solar, wind, and bio-gas by 2020, and 17 percent by 2030.

The OECD goals, by contrast, are 20 percent energy from renewable sources by 2020 and 27 percent by 2030. In 2016, 32 percent of Germany’s energy consumption came from renewable sources.

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