Water for Electricity: Israel and Jordan Strike a Deal

Israel and Jordan have reached a large and unique agreement on regional cooperation

By Rami Dabbas | | Topics: Jordan, Abraham Accords
Israel needs more energy, and Jordan has the space for new solar power fields. Photo: Moshe Shai/FLASH90

Tomorrow, November 22, representatives of Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates will meet in Dubai to sign this unprecedented deal, which will see Jordan provide Israel with electricity in exchange for desalinated water.

Jordan has vast swaths of unused land in its desert regions. A UAE company will build a massive solar power plant in the Jordanian desert that will then feed energy-hungry Israel. Israel will at the same time begin providing Jordan with about twice as much fresh water as it does today. The Jewish state is considering the construction of another desalination plant on its Mediterranean coast as part of the project.

The deal will be concluded under the auspices of the Biden Administration.

 

How will it work?

The solar power plant, to be built in Jordan, will produce about 1.2 gigawatts of electricity. It is scheduled to open in five years. The agreement facilitates future expansions to the plant to enable it to produce up to 5 gigawatts of electricity.

By 2030, this power plant is expected to supply Israel with about 7-8% of the total renewable energy used and 2% of the country’s total electricity consumption.

The facility will be connected to the Israeli electrical grid, and half of the energy generated will be streamed directly to the Jewish state in real time. The other half will be stored in Jordan and sent to Israel overnight. The project is expected to earn about $161 million annually, which will be split between Jordan and the UAE company that builds and operates the plant.

Jordan will increase its purchase of fresh water from Israel to 200 million cubic meters annually, about double what it currently buys. The two counties are considering the possibility of building a private desalination plant on Israel’s Mediterranean coast dedicated to the project.

This new cooperation is yet another fruit of the Abraham Accords.

The Sorek Desalination Plant on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. Isaac Harari/Flash90

How did it come about?

The agreement is based on an idea presented by EcoPeace Middle East two years ago. It includes Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian environmental activists trying to promote cooperation and fight climate change while promoting peaceful relations between the parties.

Israel needs more power sources, and preferably in the form of renewable energy. But it lacks the space to build large new solar plants. Jordan has plenty of unused space, while at the same time being in dire need of fresh drinking water.

Strained relations between Jordan and Israel under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kept the plan on the shelf. But relations have thawed since the formation of Israel’s “government of change,” and the energy-for-water proposal was again tabled.

The deal was supposed to be signed two weeks ago at the climate conference in Glasgow, but Prime Minister Naftali Bennett requested a delay. Bennett is reported to have feared that opposition criticism of the agreement could hinder his ability to pass a new state budget.

With the budget now approved in Knesset, the deal with Jordan can move forward.

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