Sunday,21 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1340, (13 - 19 April 2017)
Sunday,21 April, 2019
Issue 1340, (13 - 19 April 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Waste against climate change

Current climate change talks in Cairo are focusing on the prospects for biomass production in Egypt, reports Mahmoud Bakr

Fahmi   discussing waste management
Fahmi discussing waste management

Bio-energy, a promising renewable energy resource, could significantly add to Egypt’s energy mix while also helping the country to reduce its emissions of the gases responsible for climate change.

While its global share is already some 10 per cent of energy production, bio-energy amounts to only one per cent in Egypt, leaving vast potential untapped. Millions of tons of biomass waste are inefficiently managed in Egypt, thereby casting away numerous opportunities for economic and environmental benefits.

“Germany initiated a process called ‘Energiewende’ several years ago,” said Julius Georg Luy, German ambassador to Egypt, at the beginning of this week’s Cairo climate talks entitled “Biomass in Egypt: Win or Waste?”

“It amounts to a radical transformation of the German energy sector. By 2050, we want to cover 80 per cent of our electricity demand with renewable energies,” he said.

Egyptian Minister of Environment Khaled Fahmi in his intervention at the talks emphasised the importance of feed-in tariffs as a waste-management incentivising mechanism. Such tariffs allow the private sector to feed electricity generated from waste into the national grid in exchange for payment.

“The final purchasing price has not been announced, but we’re targeting a 13 per cent internal rate of return over 10 years, a payback period of four years, a return on investment of 150 per cent, and a power purchase agreement that can reach up to 20 years. This is all very profitable and attractive to investors,” Fahmi said.

The ministry in cooperation with the UNDP has already taken an off-grid approach to biogas production under its “Bio-Energy for Sustainable Rural Development” project, which has founded 30 start-ups that have built 1,300 small-scale biogas units in 18 governorates.

“Egypt produces 19 million tons of biomass every year,” said Eid Meguid, director of the Technology Transfer Office at the Agriculture Research Centre (ARC) in Egypt, highlighting the challenges facing bio-energy especially the inconsistency of supply.

 “In the same village, you can find a farmer growing only a certain crop on a certain number of acres and a neighbouring farmer growing a different crop on a different number of acres. So if you want to do business, you have to go to places that have the intensive crops that fit your technology,” he explained.

“Once demand increases, there will be an economic incentive for farmers to collect their crops and transport them to the project location.”

“Germany is the number one country for biogas digesters, and it has the highest feed-in tariffs, which are definitely a key to that success,” said Tawfik Al-Kheshen, head of the National Solid Waste Management Programme at the Gesellschaft für Intenationale Zusammenarbeit in Germany, an international aid organisation.

He explained that with last year’s floatation of the Egyptian pound, alternative energies now have a better chance to compete on the market in Egypt when compared to high fuel prices.

He suggested using alternative fuels in the cement industry, in particular, and added that people should look at biomass production from a socio-economic perspective. “Small biomass businesses create jobs in villages. If villagers are given the technology to utilise their biomass resources to create jobs, this might help solve some of the problems of rural-to-urban migration,” Al-Kheshen said.

add comment

  • follow us on