Israel requires "the study of desalination, massive utilization of solar energy, preventing waste of useful rainwater and maximization of power from wind turbines..."
David Ben Gurion, former Prime Minister of Israel - 1955
With very limited natural sources of water, and no fossil fuel resources to speak of, Israel has developed with a careful eye toward maximizing return on resources and dealing with the impact of resource constraints. The country's earliest leaders foresaw that as Israel developed, it would need to use resources wisely and conservatively and as such, Israel is considered as one of the earliest developers of "clean technologies".
Netafim, founded in 1965 pioneered the idea of drip irrigation, a process that virtually eliminates water waste in agricultural irrigation. Chromagen, established in the mid-1960s, pioneered solar thermal water heaters in the domestic and international market. Its energy saving solar-based water heaters can be found on practically every rooftop in Israel and in many other countries around the world. Other global leaders, including IDE (desalination), Ormat (geothermal recovered energy) and Solel (formerly LUZ, solar thermal power generation) were all industry pioneers and have since grown to become global leaders.
By the mid-2000s, the same drivers that drove Israel's cleantech innovation - water, energy and natural resource constraints - were increasingly recognized globally. Government, industrial, commercial and private concerns focused on finding solutions to resource management issues, seeking to 'do more with less'. Israel, with its history of cleantech innovation and an active workforce of seasoned entrepreneurs & technologists emerging from the country's high-tech sector, began to take an early lead in developing the next generation of clean technologies.
With little to no domestic sources of fossil fuels, Israel historically relied on imported energy. Given the fluctuation of fossil fuel prices and the instability of countries exporting these fuels, Israeli ingenuity has concentrated on finding alternative energy-generating solutions. Research centers focused their efforts on deriving energy from the sun, initially via solar thermal processes and, more recently, via solar photovoltaics. Academic and non-academic efforts to develop economical solutions to replace traditional energy sources resulted in a niche industry of solar companies and startups, starting with LUZ (now Solel) in the 1980s to the present day, with a multitude of solar energy startups, including solar thermal, concentrated photovoltaic and novel solar photovoltaic companies.
Over several decades, Israel has developed a rapidly evolving ecosystem of energy technology companies, drawing on the legacy capabilities in renewable energy and increasingly leveraging capabilities in power electronics, energy storage and high-reliability communications that evolved as part of Israel's "traditional" high tech and military industrial sectors.
Water and water security continue to be a real concern in Israel. With limited sources of fresh water, the country has developed methods to both reduce usage of water in industrial, residential and agricultural applications as well as to create economical sources of fresh water via desalination.
As the industry has matured and demand for Israeli technologies has grown worldwide, innovations that started as novel mechanical solutions (double flush toilets, drip irrigation, water re-use) have given way to cutting edge technology-based solutions (water quality monitoring and management, advanced wastewater treatment, membranes and desalination).
Israels entrepreneurs have focused not only on harnessing alternative sources of energy, but also on increasing efficiency in existing systems in order to optimize energy usage. These efforts have borne fruit across a wide spectrum of industries, including novel energy storage, intelligent sensors and network devices, lighting, smart grid as well as waste recycling and reuse.
The country has been recognized for its developments in novel storage systems (fuel cells, batteries), due in part to strong academic research efforts and R&D support from government entities. Although this sector is relatively new worldwide, Israel is already emerging as a leader and knowledge center for energy storage.
Many efficiency related technologies – smart grid, lighting and intelligent sensors in particular – evolved from pioneering research and development efforts of Israel’s high-tech and military sectors. As cleantech grows to become a more prominent sector locally and globally, Israel’s entrepreneurs will increasingly harness military, high-tech and other cross-over technology to increase efficiency across a wide spectrum of industries.