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U.S.-Israel Shared-Value Initiatives: Energy Cooperation

As a small nation with no significant natural resources, totally dependent on imported oil, Israel has had to diversify its energy sources and to place a high premium on preserving its environment.

One area where Israel is an international leader is in the field of renewable energy sources. In fact, Israel is the world’s largest per capita user of solar water heaters in the home, as well as the location of some of the largest solar power stations. Israel has also made advances in wind energy, a technology that utilizes pond water to absorb and store solar energy, research on splitting water using high temperature hydrogen and electric car batteries. More specific innovations include:

  • A calcium cell battery developed at Tel Aviv Universitythat is safer and lasts longer than conventional batteries.
  • A solar energy tower designed at the Weizmann Institutethat concentrates the sun’s rays to drive gas turbines for high-efficiency generation of electricity.
  • A Technion-designed tower that uses wind to generate electricity.
  • A microorganism developed at Tel Aviv University to eat crude oil in tanker hulls and another one to help clean beaches after oil spills.

In 1983, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Israel Atomic Energy Commission. The agreement provides for the exchange of information pertaining to regulatory matters and standards required or recommended by the NRC for the operation of nuclear facilities. The MOU was renewed in 1988 and 1993. The NRC is now drafting a renewal to be signed in September of 1998. There are currently no exchanges under the MOU.

In 1984, the Department of Energy (DOE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Israel Ministry of Energy for cooperation in energy research and development. This provided for the exchange of scientists, engineers, and other specialists for participation in agreed research, development, analysis, design and experimental activities. In 1987, the DOE and the Israel Ministry of Science and Development signed an MOU in basic energy sciences, which was renewed in 1996 and again in 2005. Another three agreements were signed in 2000: an agreement on energy cooperation, an implementation agreement for development and demonstration of renewable energy technologies and a second implementation agreement for research and development of electric and hybrid buses.

In 2005, Congress required the Secretary of Energy to submit a report that describes the ways in which the United States and Israel have cooperated on energy research and development activities under the MOU, projects initiated pursuant to the Agreement; and plans for future cooperation and joint projects under the Agreement.

In April 2008, the United States and Israel signed a nuclear cooperation agreement that essentially broadens and updates past nuclear cooperation accords between the two countries. It will enable the Israel Atomic Energy Commission to access most of the latest nuclear safety data, procedures and technology available in the U.S. Although Israel is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the U.S. has signed agreements with Israel on nuclear safety in the past. In addition, Israel also has an agreement for limited cooperation on matters of nuclear safety with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and has adopted the stringent standards and safety procedures of the Vienna-based organization. In an effort to help ensure safety at the nuclear research compound in Dimona, Israel has sought to improve its ties in the nuclear field with many countries and organizations in recent years. The Dimona reactor was developed nearly five decades ago. It has recently undergone upgrades, much like similar upgrades to U.S. reactors, and safety there meets the highest international standards, despite not being monitored by an international agency.

Israeli infrastructure, energy, and water Minister Yuval Steinitz and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz held meetings during October 2015 in Washington DC, during which they began a dialogue based around mutual cooperation in the energy sectors of their respective countries. The officials discussed collaboration and partnership in several areas: from natural gas resources to cyber-security and nuclear energy.

On April 4, 2016, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz, signed a collaborative agreement bolstering energy cooperation between Israel and the United States. The agreement provides for cooperation in fossil fuels, renewable energy production, energy and water infrastructure protection, and water resources.

U.S. and Israeli officials announced the launch of the $16 million US-Israel Center of Excellence in Energy, Engineering and Water Technology in mid-July 2018. This collaborative project will accelerate the development of innovative and more environmentally friendly energy technologies.  

Sources: Partners for Change; Haaretz (April 14, 2008);
Sharon Udasin.“Steinitz, US Secretary Moniz to increase energy cooperation,” Jerusalem Post (October 21, 2015);
“United States Enhances Energy Agreement with Israel,” AIPAC (April 4, 2016);
Rebecca Stadlen Amir. US, Israel establish joint center for energy cooperation, Israel21c, (July 10, 2018).