26 May 2011

Israeli water technology -- part 1

The Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute hosted me and 46 journalists from 38 countries.

Although I visited Israel in the 1990s, I learned quite a bit about their water technologies* on this trip:
  • Zenith Solar uses a focal-lens system to heat water AND generate electricity [PDF brochure]. Total sun to energy conversion is about 70% (!)

  • Mekorot (the national water carrier company) opened its facilities to 600 start-up projects, allowing small companies to try to improve operations. They ended up adopting 20 ideas (3%). Mekorot also shares its data on these operations "peer-to-peer" with foreign utilities considering buying the technology.

  • We toured the world famous (and briefly largest) Ashkelon RO-desalination plant. It produces 118 million m^3 of water a year, at a price of $0.53/m^3, delivered (that price includes CapEx, OpEx and profits). Key statistic: It takes 3.5 kWh to purify a m^3; power costs $0.06/kWh so energy costs $0.21 of that $0.53. Big surprise: They remove boron from the water to make it compatible with farming. Yes, Israeli farmers get more than half their water from treated wastewater (75% is treated and reused), but they also take desalinated water out of Merkot's network.

  • The managers at a plant handling wastewater from 2 million people tell people to dump used oil in their toilets -- rather than the ground or in the garbage -- since they can recover it at the plant. The mixture of recovered organic and mineral oils is used to make candles.

  • Farmers pay 1 NIS (about $0.30) for a cubic meter of wastewater ($350/af) that costs 3NIS to treat, settle/inject underground, and pump to their farms. That's not a 2NIS subsidy (because treatment is necessary), but an opportunity cost subsidy (the water could ALSO be sold to cities to reduce the need for desalinated water).

  • Israeli tap water is priced per capita (as I recommend). The price of household water is about 12 NIS/m^3 (about $9.50/ccf). That price will rise: Israel plans to get ALL of its household water from desalination by 2015; they are building three desalination plants that will be bigger than Ashkelon.**
* I offered to give a talk on the economics and politics of water management at their November Watec conference. Stay tuned.

** Oh crap. They are getting project financing from the European Investment Bank for one desalination plant. Ridiculous! (1) Israel is not in Europe! (2) There's no need to subsidize financing on a desalination plant!

Part 2 will cover drip irrigation, waste separation, smart meters, and water security. Yeah baby!

8 comments:

  1. EIB is a longstanding investor in non-European Mediterranean countries, but its lending to Israel far outweighs any of the other countries in the region. (http://is.gd/PERG6p)

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  2. Every year, water problems will become more acute

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  3. I agree with previous commentators My point is - all governments must to spend more time this issue

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  4. 6 cents a kWh? Electricity costs between 12 and 20 cents a kWh here. Does Isreal provide subsidized energy to Ashkelon?

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  5. I find your $0.53/ m3 figure for desal at Ashkelon hard to believe. Why can’t this low figure be duplicated around the world? $0.53 is just the operating cost for many desal plants around the world. Look at the economics in Australia, where Israeli companies are involved. Please help me to understand these differences in economics.

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  6. This is not a subsidy and not a gift. This is a regular commercial loan, this is what banks exist for. Before you write and give definitions, try to check the facts.

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  7. @Anon -- you are wrong. The EIB is NOT a commercial bank: "The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the European Union's financing institution. Its shareholders are the 27 Member States of the Union, which have jointly subscribed its capital." As such, its loans are neither commercial in rate (balancing risk and return) or in destination. You r claim would require an RFFinance and bids among real commercial banks (even if many of them now have government investors).

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  8. I do not know Merkot. I do know Mekorot, Israel's National Water Company.

    The National Water Carrrier is something else.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Water_Carrier_of_Israel

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