Cablegate: Doe a/S Karsner Explores Renewable Energy Research In


DE RUEHTV #1230/01 1631309
R 111309Z JUN 08



Department for EEB/ESC/IEC and NEA/AIA

E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: DOE A/S Karsner Explores Renewable Energy Research in

1. (SBU) Summary. U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary
Alexander Karsner visited Israel May 19-24 to explore alternative
and renewable energy research and production. He and his team met
with academic and private sector researchers, as well as companies
already selling renewable energy generating equipment and venture
capital firms investing in new technologies. Karsner signed with
the Director General of the Ministry of National Infrastructure an
Implementation Agreement that advances the new US-Israeli joint
Energy Research Cooperation program. On May 21, Deputy A/S Steve
Chalk addressed an Alternative Energy Conference held at Tel Aviv
University. The visit opened many new avenues for cooperation on
biofuels, fuel cells, solar energy and energy storage technologies,
and many Israeli researchers expressed interest in visiting the
National Renewable Energy Laboratory and other DOE lab facilities.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable
Energy Andy Karsner visited Israel May 19-24 to explore the variety
of renewable and alternative energy research underway, and to
further clarify with the GOI how implementation of the new joint
energy research program should proceed. Karsner was joined by
Deputy A/S Steven Chalk, Senior Advisor Michael Bruce, Energy Policy
Analyst Scott Pugh, and NREL Manager of Intergovernmental Programs
Ron Benioff. The DOE team accompanied by Embassy ESTH officer met a
broad cross-section of Israel's private sector producers and
investors, academic researchers, and government policymakers engaged
in alternative energy work.

3. (U) Karsner's visit to Israel coincided with a Tel Aviv
University Conference on Renewable Energy. This conference, opened
by the Ambassador, featured an address by Deputy Assistant Secretary
of Energy Steve Chalk. In his address, Chalk outlined the USG
policies for achieving greater energy independence for the United
States, and noted the avenues of technology research that DOE is
pursuing. He also highlighted the new Bilateral US-Israel energy
research program for which A/S Karsner signed the Implementation
Agreement during his visit.

Rethinking Israel's Energy Future
4. (SBU) On May 21 Karsner met with GOI Minister for National
Infrastructure Binyamin Ben-Eliezer in Jerusalem.
The Minister outlined Israel's energy constraints: little domestic
energy sources but for a small amount of natural gas in the
Mediterranean, and plentiful sunshine. Currently 70 percent of
electricity is coal generated, and carbon sequestration technology
could be done (at some cost) to make this more environmentally
friendly. A transition to cleaner natural gas has been started, but
this does not diminish the country's vulnerability to imported
energy suppliers. The Minister said he expects more reliance on
solar in the future, and will commit Israel to 20 percent savings on
its energy use off a 2006 base by 2020. He has also established a
stretch goal of 20% of electricity from renewable energy by 2020.

5. (SBU) Karsner thanked the Minister for GOI cooperation in
preparing the new bilateral energy research program, and for signing
the Memorandum of Understanding establishing that program in March
when Ben-Eliezer visited Washington. Karsner noted Israel's
impressive solar technology, and encouraged Eliezer to consider more
solar-powered generation. With the Ministry's Director General Hezi
Kugler, Karsner later signed an Implementation Agreement related to
the MoU on energy research. Karsner encouraged Kugler to be
aggressive in the scope of their upcoming CSP solicitation to
enhance industry interest, seeking bids for up to 2500mw of
solar-generated power. Because the GOI covers the risks of land
acquisition, permits, and grid purchase price, investors would be
willing to bear financial, commercial and technical risks and will
be interested in participating if the scale of the opportunity is
large enough. Kugler accepted Karsner's offer to have NREL conduct
a quick study of policy options for attracting large scale renewable
energy investment to Israel. (Note: This study is already

Private Sector Charging Ahead
6. (U) The DOE team visited Solel Solar Systems in Beit Shemesh.
CEO Avi Brenmiller briefed Karsner on Solel's technology utilizing
parabolic mirrors that concentrate solar energy onto solar thermal
receivers containing a heat transfer fluid. This fluid is
circulated and heated through the receivers, and the heat is
released to a series of heat exchangers to generate super-heated
steam which drives a turbine to generate power. Solel has sold
this technology in several countries, including a commercially
competitive plant in California. The size of foreign market demand
needed to merit investment in production facilities abroad was

discussed, and Brenmiller did not rule out such investment in the
US. Solel is developing a 1 MW integrated CSP test system and is
interested in partnering with the U.S. in the use of this system.
The DOE delegation noted interest in potential collaboration on
solar thermal storage and Solel promised to share ideas for
collaboration with NREL.

7. (SBU) Karsner and officials also met with various renewable
energy investment firms, including Cleantech Ventures, Tamir
Fishman, and Precede Technologies and with several companies
including Project Better Place, Emefcy Bio-Energy Systems, CellEra,
Bright Source, Bright View Systems, and the Israeli Electric

Academic Researchers Engaged
8. (U) The DOE team visited several of Israel's leading universities
where renewable energy research is underway. At Hebrew University's
Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Science they were briefed
by Dean Eli Feinerman and Prof Sam Saguy on current research. Prof.
Yitzhak Hadar detailed his work using fungal enzymes to promote
cellulosic fermentation to produce biogas. Prof. Oded Shoseyev
discussed research on genetic engineering to produce trees with
enhanced biomass and bio-ethanol generating capacity.

9. (U) At the Weizmann Institute, DOE officials met with Prof. Dan
Yakir, Head of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Energy
Research, who led discussions on facilitating biogas production
through enzyme research. Professors Ed Bayer, Avihai Danon, and Uri
Peck participated. Professor Michael Epstein detailed his work on
solar energy, and described the Weizmann Institute's solar energy
tower, that can generate up to 3 megawatts of solar power focused on
faculty experiments. Aside from the existing solar power technology
of parabolic mirror enhanced thermal generation, Epstein discussed
enhanced photovoltaic research and thermal storage technology.
Weizmann scientists expressed great interest in continuing contact
with DOE researchers at NREL and other labs in the US.

10. (U) At the Technion/Israel Institute of Technology Karsner's
delegation was briefed by Technion President Yitzhak Apeloig on his
institution's pivotal role in Israel's infrastructure and
engineering history. Technion graduates are responsible for much of
the country's constructed environment and power and water systems,
and currently lead most Israeli high-tech research companies.
Professors Gideon Grader and Avner Rothschild outlined Technion's
energy research as having four components: Alternative fuels, such
as hydrogen production and biofuels; renewable energy such as solar
dessicant cooling and enhanced photovoltaics; energy storage through
fuel cells, batteries, and thermal technologies; and energy
conservation through architectural and industrial efficiency.
Grader himself focuses on materials science engineering,
particularly in ceramics that can enable the construction of
ultrahigh temperature solar boiling vessels.

11, (U) Technion Professor David Hasson presented work he and Rafit
Semiat are doing on membrane desalination, which works to improve
the technology already deployed in Israel's largest desalination
facilities. DOE officials later toured the world's largest
desalination facility in Asheklon, operated by IDE Technologies,
that produces 330,000 cubic meters of water per day. IDE's use of a
vacuum desalination process that produces ice may also hold good
potential as part of a integrated thermal storage system. IDE was
invited to visit NREL to further explore potential collaboration and
this visit is currently being planned.

Forming Ongoing Liaisons
12. (SBU) Many of the academic researchers the team DOE met with
hope to continue discussions with their American counterparts, both
university and government based. To facilitate liaison with Israeli
academic researchers, Karsner urged them to work together, perhaps
forming a loose consortium among themselves. This would avoid
duplication of efforts and speed communication with DOE. Ultimately,
the selection of research projects for funding under the new
bilateral program will be aided by having a single counterpart to
the DOE National Renewable Energy Labs.

13. (SBU) In concluding discussions with GOI Ministry of
Infrastructure DG Kugler, Karsner suggested that the existing
Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD)
offers a promising vehicle through which to channel part of the
joint research funds. During the visit Karsner had met with BIRD
Executive Director Eitan Yudilevitch, who described the BIRD model
for supporting projects that team Israeli and U.S. firms on
developing and commercializing innovative technologies and enable

the recapture of BIRD funds when commercialization is successful.
This would capitalize on BIRD's established capacity for developing
and managing bilateral projects between U.S. and Israeli companies.

14. (U) The Department of Energy reviewed and cleared this cable.


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