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If we don't change direction, these blackouts will only multiply

Opinion: The large power outage we experienced at the beginning of the month may be a preview of what is to come for the Israeli electricity sector with the increase in the frequency of heat waves due to the worsening of the climate crisis. The solutions are in our hands, now we just need to implement them, if we don't change direction, these power outages will only increase

Dr. Adi Levy and Dr. Zohar Barnet-Yitzchaki

A high voltage transmission line in the Israeli electricity grid. Illustration:
A high voltage transmission line in the Israeli electricity grid. Illustration:

On the first Friday of June, when extreme heat prevailed in Israel, heat records were broken in several areas and over 43 degrees Celsius were measured in Beit Dagan, about 300 thousand Israelis "spent" the afternoon without electricity. How does it happen that in "Startup Nation", in 2023, the air conditioner and the refrigerator become inert metal boxes - and we are left helpless in the face of a rapidly warming climate?

in research carried out at the Rupin Academic Center found that electricity consumption increases significantly during heat waves - which also increases the price of electricity production (due to the use of older and less efficient production units and those that use diesel and coal, which are significantly cheaper than natural gas and solar energy).

Unfortunately, such heat waves and heavy heat loads are only expected to become more common in the foreseeable future. The Middle East region is heating up at a faster pace than the world average. according to my data National Weather Service, so far Israel has warmed by 1.4 degrees Celsius on average. in the last 30 years An increase of approximately 2 degrees was observed in the average daily maximum temperature and with it an increase in the heat load - an index that includes the temperature and the relative humidity, and an increase in which constitutes a health risk factor, especially for sensitive populations such as the elderly, pregnant women, infants andworking outside. expected until 2050 He is pessimistic: a warming of about 2 more degrees.

According to Publications in the media, last Friday's electricity consumption was 11.5 gigawatts - this compared to close to 13 gigawatts consumed at the peak of August and compared to Installed power of 19.9 gigawatts at the end of 2020 (of which only 2.5 gigawatts from renewable energies). If so, the electricity sector should have had a significant reserve - and initiated power outages should not have occurred at all. However, a combination of circumstances damaged the ability to cope with the rising demands. During the transition seasons, when the weather is relatively comfortable and the consumption is not maximal, maintenance work is carried out on the electricity production infrastructures, which took some of the production units out of operation. In addition, malfunctions in some of the production units and in the transmission infrastructure due to fires and overloads caused large loads on the active power plants, which required proactive power outages last Friday to prevent damage to them.

Solar panels on every roof

One solution for predicting the expected electricity consumption is the use of artificial intelligence and the construction of models for predicting consumption. These models are based on past observations (how much electricity was consumed on which days and what were the weather conditions on those days), and they allow future forecasting of consumption - even in extreme situations that were not observed before, as was done in the study carried out in Robin. The implementation and improvement of the models used by the "Nega" company, which manages the Israeli electricity sector starting in 2021, could allow the electricity sector to better assess the electricity requirements at any point in time and prepare accordingly. But that is not enough.

In addition to the fact that we expect a further increase in temperatures in Israel and an increase in the frequency of heat waves and extreme events (including during the transition seasons), the largest power plants in Israel are located under a security threat of precision missiles that could disable them for a long period of time. Therefore, an extensive move to decentralize the energy sector must be taken as soon as possible, while installing solar panels on every available roof in public, industrial and residential buildings, as well as placing elevated solar infrastructures in some of the agricultural areas, which will allow for agricultural cultivation.

In addition to decentralizing the electricity grid, it is possible to provide greater security and flexibility in its operation by adding storage measures such as pumped storage facilities. As part of these facilities, two water reservoirs are used: upper and lower. During the hours when it is possible to generate electricity from relatively cheap sources (such as solar sources) or when the demand is low (for example at night), water is raised from the lower reservoir to the upper one. During the hours when there is high demand, the water is flowed down to the lower reservoir, through a turbine - which thus produces electricity.

Soon it is planned to be built in Bnei Brak, as part of the national program for energy storage in the urban area, a storage project of a different type of storage, called "Kosher electricity” and based on battery farms. The project will replace the production of electricity from diesel using small, noisy and polluting generators, and will act as a reserve for the electricity sector on weekdays. If it is crowned as a success, it will be possible to promote it in many more cities and give the managers of the electricity sector greater flexibility. The great advantage of these storage means is the ability to activate them within a few seconds from the moment additional electricity is required for the grid - this is in contrast to the activation of another coal generating unit, which requires preparations and preliminary activation of 24 hours or more.

Operating large power generation units that burn coal, fuel oil or diesel is not only cumbersome and slow, but also much more expensive than power generation using natural gas and renewable energies. Furthermore, the electricity produced in this way causes heavy air pollution that harms public health in Israel: during the production of electricity from coal, fuel oil or diesel, large amounts of respirable particles and nitrogen and sulfur oxides are emitted. Public disclosure to a high concentration of air pollutants proof As such that harms health, leads to morbidity in cardiovascular and circulatory system diseases and even leads to premature death. In addition, the air pollution that is added as a result of the operation of coal-fired power plants may increase the haze - and ultimately, also damage the ability to produce electricity from solar sources.

Save electricity - and power outages

In extreme climatic situations, where abnormal heat or cold loads prevail and the demand for electricity approaches the maximum production capacity, it is important to manage the national electricity sector efficiently and maintain a reserve for malfunctions. But at the same time, each and every one of us has the opportunity to help and prevent power outages through smart power consumption. Reducing electricity consumption by postponing the operation of power-hungry products such as washing machines and dishwashers until late in the evening, limiting the temperature in the air conditioner to 25 degrees Celsius, avoiding charging electric vehicles during rush hours, purchasing electrical products with a high energy rating and not turning on the dryer when you can simply dry laundry outside, can They will also save us all unnecessary electricity expenses - and the need to get caught up in power outages in the future.

Dr. Zohar Barnet-Yitzhaky, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering at the Rupin Academic Center, and Dr. Adi Levy, head of the master's degree program in urban and rural sustainability at Ahva Academic College, are researchers in the Environmental and Social Sustainability Research Group of the Rupin Academic Center.

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