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Confronting Energy Poverty in Gaza
Palestinians in Gaza are suffering from a worsening energy crisis due to the Israeli regime’s unrelenting siege. As a result, they have sought alternative sources of energy that are funded by donor aid, as well as governmental and private-sector initiatives. While these schemes can provide Palestinians with short-term solutions to alleviate their energy needs, they fail to confront the fundamental obstacles imposed by the Israeli siege, thus depoliticizing the energy crisis and perpetuating the status quo.
This policy brief contextualizes Gaza’s energy crisis within the Israeli regime’s siege in order to look more closely at the besieged enclave’s electricity crisis and the strategies Palestinians adopt to confront it, including solar energy technology. It argues that any attempt to adopt alternative sources of energy within the context of economic siege places undue burdens on Palestinian households that are already suffering from limited access to basic needs. It ends with policy recommendations for Palestinian leadership, as well as the international donor community and environmental activists, to promote Palestinian economic self-determination in Gaza.
Critically, the international community’s refusal to hold the Israeli regime accountable ensures the perpetuation of Palestinian reliance on donor aid for its basic needs, including energy. Indeed, and however essential this aid may be for Palestinians in Gaza, by continuing to sidestep Palestinian calls for sovereignty over their land and natural resources, and by continuing to shield Israel from accountability, donors do nothing more than entrench Palestinian oppression and energy poverty.
Access to electricity is particularly difficult for Palestinians in Gaza. In addition to the restrictions on electricity supply, the overall demand for electricity in Gaza is increasing with population growth, with households registering the highest percentage of electricity consumption. This is worsened by frequent outages, which hinder the ability of public-sector institutions to provide basic services related to water and waste management, healthcare, and education. The private sector is also impacted. If they manage to stay open, businesses are incurring increased operational costs for securing electricity from alternative sources during outages. This results in depleting profit margins and discouraging further investments in Gaza.
Moreover, there is a direct correlation between energy poverty and the perpetuation of gender inequality in Gaza. Indeed, shortage in electricity has a severe impact on household labor, for which Palestinian women, like women all over the world, are disproportionately responsible. Energy poverty in Gaza means that many women work even more hours in unpaid household labor—often with no electricity and in sweltering heat or bitter cold—leaving them with little or no discretionary time—a phenomenon known as time poverty. This in turn creates increased stress and pressure, often leading to mental health struggles.
However, Palestinians in Gaza have been adopting coping strategies for decades. This includes solar-powered technology to supply households with electricity and hot water. One of these strategies, known as solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, is gaining in popularity in Gaza, though with limited success due to affordability and accessibility. Indeed, in the unlikely event that the Israeli regime allows the entry of equipment necessary for PV technology, its installation and maintenance costs alone would be unaffordable for most Palestinians in Gaza.
The same is true of governmental and private-sector initiatives meant to provide Palestinians in Gaza with interest-free loans, some even payable in installments. For example, the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company launched a project offering solar system installation for households payable in monthly installments. However, the cheapest package is 6,956 NIS ($1,892) over 28 months, which is beyond the maximum amount public-sector employees reported they can set aside for solar energy systems—5,000 NIS ($1,360).
The discussion of solar energy adoption as a solution to the energy crisis in Gaza must be reframed from a technical issue to a political one with justice and liberation for Palestinians at its core:
- Palestinian leadership, environmental activists, and the donor community must focus their advocacy efforts on pushing for punitive measures against the Israeli regime, and promoting Palestinian political and economic sovereignty.
- The Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority (PENRA) must extend its solar energy initiatives to marginalized communities in Gaza.
- Municipalities and local ministries must work with PENRA to integrate the design of diversified energy sources in urban planning and reconstruction projects in Gaza, including allocating governmental lands for solar energy projects.
- PENRA and other public authorities must push for private-sector provision of solar energy solutions.
- The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and Palestinian energy research centers must: map and register all solar energy systems installed in Gaza to ensure official and reliable statistics; cover issues of gender, socioeconomic conditions, and household demographics, among others; and ensure that this data informs all green financing initiatives and solar energy projects implemented in Gaza.