The city of Eilat, located on the Red Sea shore, is Israel's leading tourism resort. Its special location and unique weather conditions contribute not only to tourism but to energy as well. Eilat has almost 365 sunny days a year, enabling it to become an energy-free zone.
By Uri Ben-Ari*
Eilat is Israel’s first smart city. It began developing this vision in 2012, by hiring a professional expert to draft and develop the smart city plan. Today, Eilat has more than 35 smart city initiatives. Fully 70% of the city's daily energy consumption is already supplied by renewable energy sources (photovoltaic – PV), and the mayor has set his sights on reaching full energy independence by 2020.
The city plans to install PV systems on 4,500 roofs to enable residents to save energy costs and to reduce CO2 emissions. Eilat is one of the cleanest, least polluted cities in Israel. It is reviewing a number of solutions for a smart grid, as it plans to control and distribute the electricity that is being produced by renewable energies.
Eilat, together with its neighbor, the Eilot Regional Council, has developed an accelerator for high-tech startups in the renewable energies field. This accelerator has already developed some great renewable energy solutions, including one that will be used to estimate the economic value derived by the utilization of the sun (PV) on every roof in the city.
The city is also implementing a fully green neighborhood project financed by the Sustainable Urban Demonstration Energy Projects (SUDEP) program. Eilat’s green neighborhood project includes energy efficiency in both public buildings and private homes, where LED lights are being installed on every electric poll in the neighborhood and in every public building. Private homes will benefit from special energy-saving equipment, as well as professional guidance on how to use it. This project will expand to additional parts of the city until every neighborhood is covered.
The energy revolution in Eilat also includes the transportation sphere, with an electric taxis pilot project being planned in cooperation with the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Transportation. Nissan and Renault cars will be tested during the pilot project.
A new international airport will open in 2017, 19 km from the city. The project will include a special road with electrical cords to charge electric buses, and a PV field is designed to supply all airport energy needs (both projects are under review).
Eilat is utilizing additional technologies and sensors to save energy and reduce CO2 emissions in smart waste management and smart water management, as well as a unique command and control center to safeguard the lives of its residents.
Highly innovative technology is being used to evaluate the ROI of each roof in the city. New technologies in the renewable energy field are being developed in the Capital Nature accelerator in Eilat-Eilot, which are being tested and used to improve Eilat's energy independence.
*Uri Ben-Ari has more than 25 years of business experience, including in top executive positions. He has been researching the smart city concept for more than three years, and has been consulting with four Israeli cities on their smart city plans. Uri is also the founder of Israel's Athena Fund, a non-profit organization that empowers teachers in Israel by providing them with laptops, tablets and iPads.