Trailblazing models show green air from Israel-Jordan-PA water, energy alliance

By pooling their resources and linking infrastructure, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are saving billions on water and energy while reducing their carbon footprint and eliminating potential shortages, according to groundbreaking scientific modeling being conducted at Oxford University. can do.

Simulations show that making Jordan a regional hub for solar and wind power could give the state 2.4 times more investment in renewable energy infrastructure, compared to a business-as-usual scenario in which each jurisdiction goes it alone, Oxford’s Dr Aman Majeed Martin School told a small gathering of academics in Tel Aviv earlier this month.

At the same time, Israel is projected to have a surplus of water that according to the project could help meet the needs of the increasingly thirsty residents of Jordan and PA, pointing to the potential borne by the collaboration as Countries are increasingly looking for methods of rescue. Addressed global warming while dealing with its already devastating effects.

“We have a lot of peace treaties in place and we know how to produce water,” said Tariq Abu Hamad, director of the Arva Institute for Environmental Studies in southern Israel, who is collaborating as part of the project. Used to chase their allies in the area. Now they are coming to us.”

Majid said a focus on renewable energy generation in Jordan would result in savings of $18.3 billion by 2030, with Israel and PA expected to spend it separately by all three to reach emissions reduction goals by 2030. K represents 9.4 percent.

Interconnected grid will also be better moderate and therefore more efficient, enabling the three jurisdictions to reach their 2030 goals with 24% fewer solar panels. The grid will also be a boon to the effort to reduce non-offset emissions to zero for 2050.

Majid said reaching net-zero together by 2050 could save all three of them about $47 billion, or 22%, with each unit operating on its own.

Majid is one of a team of academics at Oxford Martin School working on cross border cooperation On natural resources as a means of dealing with water and energy shortages. Those crises are expected to intensify particularly in the Middle East in the coming decades.

A barefoot Palestinian child pulls a plastic jerrycan filled with water into his family’s home during rain and cold weather in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza Strip, January 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Adele Hana)

The arid Middle East is a global climate hotspot where temperatures are rising much faster than the global average and where declining rainfall will exacerbate existing water shortages. The population in the region is increasing and the demand for air conditioning and desalinated water is expected to increase. Water and energy shortages will have adverse effects on food production and public health.

Jordan, with empty deserts and high levels of solar radiation, is considered one of the best places in the world for solar power. The same deserts also make wind power possible.

According to Majid, the state already generates 20% of its energy from renewable sources and aims for 50% by 2030.

In contrast, Israel is targeting 20% ​​by 2025 and 30% by the end of the decade, but is only reached 8.5% To date, partly because of the difficulty in obtaining land permits for solar fields, he said.

The Palestinian Authority currently generates 5% of its energy from renewable sources and has a target of 20% by 2030. Most of its power supply comes from Israel.

This May 21, 2019 photo shows solar panels at the newly inaugurated Noor Jericho Solar Plant in the West Bank city of Jericho. (AP Photo/Nasir Nasser)

The Oxford Martin School project is currently completing its first phase of work – the collection and sorting of data from Israel, Jordan and PA that will enable it to measure how much water and energy there is and how it is happening and It is to be used in future.

The data outlines the design of possible scenarios for collaboration and will be followed by projects on the ground. The effort is unprecedented, according to Deborah Sandler, who taught at Oxford University for many years and now lives in Israel.

“What you saw tonight is a very thorough, sophisticated modeling for the first time in our field,” she told the gathering.

The event has brought together environmental and political scientists, engineers, industry experts, senior government officials, diplomats and community leaders.

Sandler noted that Oxford academics conduct the program with Oxford research fellows, who are from the region.

“Everything that has happened is bottom-up, as well as top-down, and is based on science,” she said.

Director of the Center for Transboundary Water Management at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in southern Israel, Dr. Clive Lipchin stands in front of a pilot off-grid sewage treatment unit in the Bedouin village of Umm Batin near Beersheba in the Negev. (courtesy, Arva Institute)

Part of the research is focused on the Jordan River Basin and is being carried out in collaboration with the Arwa Institute. The institute already has an established Track II program for transboundary collaboration, co-chaired by Sandler, and is also seeking to collaborate with Harvard University. Track II, or “Backchannel Diplomacy”, looks at informal, informal discussions on state issues between private citizens and non-governmental organizations to build trust and try to reach solutions to problems.

As part of their Track II environmental diplomacy, scientists from Arava Institute to promote small-scale sustainable solutions for food production, wastewater treatment, drinking water and renewable energy in rural communities in the Negev, West Bank, Gaza Jordan and work with the Palestinians. , and southern Jordan.

They are hoping that the link with the Oxford Martin School will foster projects that can be developed and scaled up to a more impressive scale.

In recent days, the Oxford team has been presenting its findings to senior energy and water officials in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Among others, it has met with Israel’s start-up Nation Central, the official Palestinian negotiating team, the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan, and a number of diplomats, including Israel’s ambassador to Jordan.

On Monday, it ended this series of meetings at the climate forum of Israel’s president.

Academics said that their presentations were met with enthusiasm. The Israeli Ministry of Energy called the team to meet with the Electricity Authority for the second time.

“Each jurisdiction is focusing its[its]resources in the national plan,” said Suleiman Halasah, a post-doctoral researcher at Oxford University who also runs a Jordanian consulting firm on energy, water and the environment. It’s the first time I’m seeing Israelis and Palestinians agree.”

Sorek a desalination plant located south of Tel Aviv on November 22, 2018. (Isaac Harari/Flash 90)

Both Majid and Michael Gilmont, a research fellow at Oxford with a focus on water, stressed that the data presented at the meeting may change, given what has been learned during the voyage.

Dr. Aman Majeed (left) and Dr. Michael Gilmont of the Oxford Martin School Program on Transboundary Resource Management in Tel Aviv on July 3, 2022. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

Gilmont, who coordinates Oxford Martin’s entire transboundary resource management programme, said it was a challenge to compare data sets from three different authorities to match them for analysis. The plethora of different definitions and figures were a source of confusion and misunderstanding, he told The Times of Israel.

But with the help of local experts, he and his colleagues managed to produce a “nearly consistent dataset with similar accounting definitions.”

Other challenges await, such as deeply rooted geopolitical issues that may impede the willingness of the parties to cooperate. But Gilmont said the science, which is politically neutral, is an ideal vehicle for cross-border cooperation.

“A regional approach provides a great solution space,” he said, adding that the team will be looking at scenarios to increase desalination and treated wastewater to meet regional needs. The latter uses a third of the energy required by the former.

Water is poured into an agricultural irrigation pool in Ghor al-Haditha, about 80 kilometers south of the Jordanian capital, Amman, on April 20, 2021. (Khalil Mazarawi/AFP)

The data, which is still being updated in Ramallah and Amman, indicated that, taken together, the region would be unable to meet the water needs of its citizens by 2030.

Jordan is expected to lose 116 million cubic meters annually by then, Gilmont said, although that figure is likely to drop as Amman treats more wastewater, a desalination plant found in Aqaba, from the ground. and received extra water from Israel.

The data shows that the Palestinian Authority is expected to lose 431 million cubic meters by the end of this decade.

However, Israel is looking at a potential surplus of 300 million cubic meters of water by 2030. This is thanks to the use of treated sewage water for desalination and irrigation.

Gilmont said that upcoming steps would include formulating scenarios or alternatives through consultation with regional stakeholders.

“We want to see how these big-picture numbers can be implemented on the ground through scalable alternatives and create a platform for sharing regional knowledge,” he said. “Talks in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah have emphasized its need.”

In this April 14, 2016, photo, a Palestinian man fills tankers to sell at a drinking water station in Gaza City. Poor sewage treatment is a feature of life in Gaza, a result of a rapidly growing population, infrastructure damaged during the war with Israel, and a chronic lack of electricity to run the wastewater plants that still operate. (AP photo/Khalil Hamra)

In a sign of growing environmental awareness in the West Bank, two people from the stone-cutting industry in Jenin came to a meeting to seek advice on combating stream pollution with marble slurry – a byproduct of stone-cutting.

Shaddad Attili, former Palestinian water minister and former head of the Palestinian Water Authority, who is now a partner with the Oxford team, said Israel and the Palestinian Authority had signed the same international environmental agreement.

“If we all agree, why don’t we sign a regional environmental protocol,” he proposed.

Sandler said working with professionals in the field would eventually lead to a move in the political arena.

She later told The Times of Israel that the initiative was not intended to replace government agreements, such as to supply Israeli water to Jordan or electricity to the Palestinian Authority. Instead, it sought to provide an agreed scientific basis for all relevant actors in the region to be able to plan for the general threat of climate change.

“The idea is that everyone makes decisions together,” she said.