The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee, chaired by Avishai Braverman, toured the Electric Corporation as well as the gas turbine power station ”Hagit”, the power station ”Orot Rabin” in Hadera and the historic Hepzibah Farms in Hadera. MKs David Tsur, Itzik Shmuli, Ronen Hoffman, Hana Swaid, Yakov Asher, Michal Rozin and Ariel Atias joined Braverman on the tour. At the beginning of the tour, the MKs got a quick look at the Hagit power station, which produces 1,400 megawatts (About 10% of the total production of the Electric Corporation).
Chair of the Committee Braverman said that sometimes the Electric Corporation becomes the punching bag for many politicians, though the corporation has an amazing history and that the problems that sometimes arise are fixed. Regarding the storm, MK Braverman reminded that the committee held a debate in the Knesset a week ago. He added ”We were convinced that the employees worked diligently in order to reconnect the electricity in the towns that were disconnected. They worked day and night, in places where there were problems like with the call center, the committee is obligated to fix the issues and we will make sure that that will happen. The problem was with the state`s leadership, there was no one entity in the government who had the responsibility to manage the event and to coordinate the agencies. The Electric Corporation handled itself well in dealing with the storm.” According to him, the Electric Corporation earned great marks for their work during the storm and the reforms need to be done carefully in order that we do not have a situation of interruptions in service like in California.
Speaker of the Electric Company, Yiftah Ron Tal said ”We agree that we are in the last stages before the completion of the debate on reform. We don`t have the flexibility to delay the process. We are in the final moments before a reform that will happen in the field. The electric infrastructure is sensitive and critical for the public and we learned this last week. We hope that the request to extend the licenses that the committee is talking about next week will be final.” Ron Tal also referred to the electricity tax, that the electric authority set in 1996 and said that it does not allow the company to develop and that it will develop a debt that will reach 70 billion NIS along with an electricity reserve that is shrinking. He added that the reform intends to solve the problems that were created and that the in the first quarter of 2014, there needs to be a finalization on the agreement.
Ron Tal also spoke about creating electricity through gas and said that today, 50-60% of electricity is from gas and 40% from coal, and on days that the weather is good, no coal is used. Despite this he warned that, ”This whole revolution relies on one gas pipeline.” Regarding the stations for absorption of gas from Hagit and in Emek Hefer, Ron Tal said that ”Every gas station in central Tel Aviv is more dangerous for the environment than a gas absorption station.” MK Rozin remarked that the treatment should happen at sea, like in Scandinavian countries. Ron said about the storm that workers worked around the clock with live wires and no one was hurt due to the exercises and investment of half a billion NIS in the last three years for new equipment which stood up to the challenge.
CEO Eli Glickman, who was an officer in Israel`s version of the Navy SEALS, said that there was no doubt that the in the last week the actions of the company were like that of the army. The Electric Corporation has been preparing for winter from April 2013 and held an exercise at the emergency center a month ago. Regarding the actions of the of the center, Glickman said that the company is checking the work of the 103 hotline, but at the height of the storm there were 60 thousand customers without electricity and it is impossible to prepare a call center for that. MK David Tsur asked about the cost of the damage and Glickman estimated that it would reach a billion NIS.
Regarding the financial situation of the company, Glickman explained that the company has a plan to reduce their debt. ”By 2015, the electric tax can start to come down because we will cover the collateral and we will pay back the debt. Lowering the tax before 2015 will create a crisis.”