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Can green energy help Palestinians unplug from Israel?

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"We have no choice but to think outside the box,” says Sabawi, who is part of a small coterie of individuals and organizations hoping to spur a larger movement for independent and sustainable energy in the Palestinian Territories.

Even conventional energy out of reach

The Palestinian territories import more than 95 percent of their electricity and fuel, mainly from Israel with small amounts from Jordan and Egypt. The Palestinians’ only independently produced electricity is generated by a power plant in Gaza City that depends on imported fuel. The Palestinian territories have no conventional energy sources, aside from an untouched gas reserve off the coast of Gaza that was discovered in 2000.

In Gaza, scheduled power outages leave residents without electricity for up to eight hours each day. Though in the West Bank most communities have 24-hour access to power, population growth and economic development are pushing energy demand up by 7 to 10 percent per year.

Palestinians pay about 15 percent more per kilowatt-hour than their Israeli counterparts and as much as double the rates in the US while earning significantly less. The diesel fuel typically required to heat a Palestinian home remains out of financial reach for many who live here.

“Palestine is facing enormous energy problems,” says Sabawi. “We have one of the highest population densities in the world […] and we are paying among the highest energy prices in the entire Middle East and North Africa.”

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