For the past 50 years the southern Arava has been searching for the "next big thing" to promote development of the region, something to move the region past the dates and the dairy barns. We tried and are still trying out every idea and/or opportunity. We searched/are searching for fields whose added value for the region would not just be monetary, but would also be of social and environmental value, and would significantly leverage diversification of sources of employment and attraction of high level population to the southern part of the country, and would also help to create a harmonious fabric of life which would offer financial welfare, rich social life and wild and unique natural surroundings, thereby creating true, unexampled quality of life in the Arava.
It appears that the field of renewable energy which we chose to develop is the most significant driving force that can bring about sustainable change in the Arava. When I refer to renewable energy I don't simply mean solar fields, which of course have financial value which would be worthwhile for the settlements of the Arava, I am talking about a life cycle of innovation and fields of knowledge; I'm talking about: high-level education in science, values and civil responsibilities; I'm talking about development of academia and unique programs for professional training; I'm talking about turning the Arava into a center for regional cooperation in fields of research in which many researchers from various renewable energy and energy efficiency disciplines will work; I'm talking about turning the Arava into an experimental field that provides a "display window on innovative technologies"; I'm talking about an international science center, about generation of energy by various different technologies, about industrial areas, about unique tourism, about international conferences and about a project that we call Sun Valley in which everything will be conducted through a professional regional organization which is already now creating many interesting jobs, and will continue to do so even more in the future.
Determination of this vision is the beginning, an important beginning... It will be difficult to realize without full partnership on the part of government, academic and industrial entities. We need clear government policies on everything regarding the need to adopt lofty and courageous national aims for production of renewable energy, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, encouragement of innovative technology (clean tech) and encouragement of development in the Negev and the Arava. We need regulatory certainty which will enable widespread business development in all of the fields which I mentioned above, and we need support from academia in promotion of the field and reinforcement of the Arava as an important venue for studies in the field.
We are not sitting back and waiting, we are working together with all of the entities mentioned above, and together have already achieved success in: establishment of the sole renewable energy administration in the country in the Arava which coordinates all of the work, government recognition of the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Conference and creation of a professional hub in the region, winning the tender for the technological hothouse for renewable energy in the Arava in partnership with the government and important industries in Israel (Elbit, Rafael, Ormat, etc.), approval and funding for turning the Timna industrial area into an area for a solar power station, establishment of the science center, establishment of the first solar panel field in the country, writing of unique educational curricula and more...
I believe wholeheartedly that this is the right path to take, this is the approach, and the Negev should constantly look for and find unique ways to bring about financial, social and environmental change. We would be happy if you would partner us in this revolution and join us in the Arava.
Udi Gat – Eilot Regional Council Head