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 Opinion Pieces
 
A new chapter in our relationship

Published: Friday, 28 April 2017
Author: Hon Josh Frydenberg MP
Publication: The Australian Jewish News

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LAST week I arrived in Israel direct from Hong Kong. Barely a month old, this new flight route saw a plane full of business people eager to seize the opportunities presented by what is now known as the start-up nation.

Our delegation was no different. Accompanied by the CEO of Australia’s Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and a collection of Australian energy companies and clean-tech entrepreneurs, we saw first hand Israel’s incredible innovation across solar, water, cyber and drone technology.
 
We visited the 121 megawatt solar thermal power plant in the Negev Desert which when fully operational later this year will supply 120,000 homes with renewable energy and save 110,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year. 
 
With more than 50,000 computer- controlled mirrors that reflect the sunlight onto a boiler sitting above a 200-metre tower, it will be the tallest and fifth largest plant of its kind in the world.
 
As we in Australia advance our plans for the first solar thermal plant, to be located in Port Augusta, there is much we can learn from the Israeli experience.
 
Indeed Israel’s leadership in solar is nothing new because 50 years ago Israel pioneered solar water heating systems which were used in one in 20 homes, and in the 1970s Ormat Industries developed one of the world’s first solar power stations near the Dead Sea.
 
Today it’s a new generation of start-ups like Solarus Energy which has developed a floating solar power plant that reduces cost as the fresh, salt or waste-water surface helps cool the panels; or Sol Chip, a Haifa-based company which has achieved a world-first solar battery that can recharge itself; or Pythagoras Solar which has developed solar cells that can be encased within a pane of glass creating photovoltaic windows integrated into a building.
 
But it’s not just solar technology that offers opportunities for collaboration between Australia and Israel. Pumped hydro is another exciting area as well.
 
We met the executives at Gilboa Pumped Hydroelectric Power Station in northern Israel, which will see 300 megawatts of power generated by moving water between an upper and lower reservoir, storing nearly 2.5 million cubic metres each.
 
Australia currently has three pumped hydro facilities and is keen to do more with the Turnbull Government announcing new feasibility studies for projects in Queensland, Tasmania and Snowy Hydro 2.0.
 
Wave power technology is another area where companies in both countries are breaking new ground.
 
Having successfully harnessed the power of the ocean to generate electricity, Eco Wave Power based in Tel Aviv has projects underway in the United Kingdom, Mexico, China and Chile and is one of a number of Israeli companies that is intending to list on the Australian Stock Exchange.
 
Another leading company that we had the opportunity to visit was Airobotics, a specialist in drone technology solutions.
 
The development of drones to collect environmental data for Australian authorities, whether in Antarctica, over our National Parks, the Great Barrier Reef or in the aftermath of a major storm or cyclone is enormous. 
 
While in Israel I also met my ministerial counterpart Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin to sign a joint declaration for cooperation on environmental protection.
 
This will be important in setting a framework for our respective departments to share data and expertise across a range of areas including biodiversity, waste management, coastal management, air quality and species protection.
 
The visit also coincided with two important dates on our respective calendars, Yom Hashoah and Anzac Day.
 
It was very moving to attend Yad Vashem with the Israeli President and Prime Minister to remember all those who tragically died during the Holocaust, and I am proud to say this year Australia has joined with the United States and Canada in co-sponsoring a United Nations event to commemorate Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day.
 
On Anzac Day I joined fellow Australians at the war grave cemetery at Mount Scopus where 2000 Commonwealth soldiers are buried, while also paying a visit to Beersheva where later this year in October Prime Ministers Turnbull and Netanyahu will mark the 100th anniversary of the 4th Light Horse Brigade breaking through Turkish defences, contributing to the end of the Ottoman Empire.
 
Australia’s bilateral ties with Israel are deep and diverse, strong and long-standing. Today there is a new chapter opening in the relationship with Israel’s high-tech revolution providing opportunities for collaboration.
 
These last few days discussing energy and environment issues were very productive and will hopefully continue the momentum in the relationship to the mutual benefit of our two great nations.
 
Josh Frydenberg is the Member for Kooyong and the Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy.

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