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As nations continue developing renewable energy infrastructure to meet sustainability targets, some are creating unique approaches to ensure they meet their stated goals. In what is expected to be a first for any nation (developed or otherwise), the Energy Ministry of Israel is enacting new country-wide regulations requiring all new non-residential buildings to have rooftop solar panels. 

Issues Presented

Unlike many developed nations planning land-intensive renewable projects (including solar and wind based power plants), Israel lacks the land required for large ground based solar farms and is also not well suited for wind power or hydropower (due to wind turbines’ environmental requirements and Israel’s lack of available water)[1].  Further, most of Israel’s existing large commercial ground based solar farms are in its geographic south, well removed from most Israeli population centers, creating a substantial amount of electricity line loss as the solar produced energy traverses Israel’s grid to its largest points of demand[2]. To achieve its internal goal of meeting thirty percent of its aggregate electricity needs with renewable energy by 2030[3] (it was only generating 9.2% of its energy from renewable sources at the end of 2022[4]), Israel made large-scale changes to how buildings are developed and constructed.  In addition to the requirements for non-residential buildings, the new regulation will also require the roofs of all newly constructed residential buildings to be fully equipped for easy solar panel installation in the future.

Regulatory Solutions

Israel’s approach in requiring solar panels for all newly constructed non-residential buildings will solve multiple problems: the new roof panels will increase its ability to generate renewable electricity without encumbering its short supply of open land, while also placing solar panels in heavily populated areas to more quickly satisfy electricity demands without relying upon renewable energy produced at distant solar farms.  Further, Israel’s Energy Ministry has set a goal that sixty percent of these required solar panels serve dual roles as both roofing and solar panels[5], so that the materials needed for construction would be more efficient and less wasteful (i.e., a building would no longer need a roof and accompanying solar panels, but rather just roofing materials comprised of solar panels).  Additionally, the requirement that each newly constructed residential building be fully equipped for easy solar panel installation is an important step in achieving any future requirement that all such residential buildings maintain solar panels. Residential buildings ready made for solar panel installation will make Israel’s continued conversion to renewable energy materially more efficient.

Next Steps

What is not yet clear is how these required solar panels will be paid for, the logistics required in acquiring and installing them, and what types of incentives the Israeli government will offer to buildings required to incorporate roof solar panels (i.e., whether those incentives will be loans, subsidies, net credits, or a mixture of each).  Further, these new regulations will be an interesting opportunity to see how this type of “forced adoption” of renewable energy production could work in a developed nation, and whether it could be a blueprint for other geographically challenged areas (like populous major cities, islands, smaller nations, etc.) to sustainably build out their renewable energy infrastructure.