Clean Energy at First Sight

Clean Energy at First Sight

Haaretz Israeli daily newspaper, "Green" magazine
Tzvi Levinson Adv. November 2009

The article shows that clean technologies and "green" solutions for the generation of energy often also have downsides, and that it is wise to thoroughly assess clean energy projects before investing large sums in projects that are environmentally and morally doubtful. One example is electric cars that, at first sight, seem to be the optimal solution for the air pollution of our cities. But it is not clear yet how the hazardous substances contained in their batteries are dealt with, especially at their end-of-life. Either the batteries have to be disposed of as hazardous waste or shipped abroad. The radiation of the battery is another problem. The Non-ionising Radiation Law requires a radiation permit for both the battery and the re-charge station. Maybe electric cars should be exempt from the law, but meanwhile they are not.

Another issue that is less sunny than it seems at first sight is the growing number of solar panels used in Israel. Israel is a sunny country but it is also a country that lacks water resources. Solar panels need to be cleaned with water regularly. It is important to take into account already in the early planning phase issues like the collection, treatment and re-use of wash-water, and the ecological design of the panels themselves, i.e. minimization of hazardous substances used and recyclability. Here lessons can be drawn from the European directives RoHS and WEEE.

Even the policy regarding renewable energy that was adopted by many developed countries has to be questioned before the background of thousands of acres of land used now in the developing world for the production of corn for ethanol production instead of food.

The article does not come to oppose clean energy, on the contrary. But it emphasizes the importance of assessing its potential negative consequences and adopting the appropriate legal basis to avoid them.