Thursday,23 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1415, (25 - 31 October 2018 )
Thursday,23 May, 2019
Issue 1415, (25 - 31 October 2018 )

Ahram Weekly

Strong renewables potential

Egypt’s projections for the use of renewable energy sources have been praised by international experts and observers, reports Ghada Raafat


Strong renewables potential
Strong renewables potential

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in its Renewable Energy Outlook report on Egypt has praised the Egyptian government for its Integrated Sustainable Energy Strategy (ISES) 2035 that emphasises the need to ensure the country’s energy security, stability and sustainability through the widespread adoption of renewable energy.

Government targets call for 20 per cent of Egypt’s power generation to be based on renewables by 2022 and 42 per cent by 2035.

The IRENA report said that by adopting the right policies Egypt could realistically draw 53 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2050. It added that the higher uptake of renewable power, including renewables used for heat and transport, would reduce total costs, including environmental and health-related costs, by $9 billion per year on average compared to current plans.

However, Hafez Al-Salmawi, an energy consultant to the World Bank and former head of the Egyptian Electric Utility and Consumer Protection Regulatory Agency (EgyptERA), said the report could be overly optimistic.

A rise in renewable energy to 53 per cent of the electricity production mix in Egypt was economically feasible, he said, but would be difficult to implement in operational terms. To fulfill this goal, a new smart electricity grid that could absorb added electricity capacity would have to be installed, especially since there had been no significant development in the storage of electricity, Al-Salmawi pointed out.

According to Ayman Hamza, a spokesman for the Ministry of Electricity, Egypt’s Energy Strategy, approved by the cabinet and the Supreme Council for Energy, targets 37 per cent for the renewable energy contribution in the total electricity mix by 2035. However, there are also hopes that this can be increased to 42 or even 47 per cent.

Mohamed Al-Sobki, a consultant on the IRENA report on Egypt, said there were many ways of achieving the targets in the report, including feed-in-tariffs under which the government buys electricity generated from renewable energy plants at a predetermined price for a period of 20 to 25 years.

There were also build, own and operate (BOO) projects to add further power sources to the mix and direct contracting mechanisms between producers and consumers of electricity, with the former being identified as Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

Al-Sobki said the provisions of Law 203/2014 for the development of new and renewable energy needed to be activated, especially by increasing mechanisms for the use of renewable energy and the compulsory quota mechanism which gives the government the power to set compulsory quota rates in one or several sectors.

If three per cent of renewable energy capacity was added per annum over five years, the increase in the contribution of renewables would amount to about three gegawatts (GW) in total, he said. “If the percentage is raised to five per cent over the same period, the contribution of renewable energies will be increased to nearly six GW at the industrial level.”

Al-Sobki said that because the cost of electricity produced from renewable sources such as the sun and wind had become competitive with traditional energy sources this had prompted the New and Renewable Energy Authority to plan and implement projects exceeding 400 MW of power generation in the Gulf of Suez.

The authority was currently studying the rehabilitation of the Zaafarana power plant operating by wind power to make it more efficient, he said.

Yan Tao, deputy director of the West Asia and North Africa Office of the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organisation (GEIDCO), a China-based sustainable-energy organisation, said Egypt was blessed with abundant renewable energy resources in comments to Al-Ahram Weekly on the fringes of the Egypt Renewable Energy Conference recently held in Cairo.

“It is an important and urgent task for Egypt to transfer these advantages into economic advantages and diversify the energy mix to ensure a reliable and stable energy supply,” Tao said. He noted that the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company was upgrading its power grid in cooperation with the State Grid Corporation of China, the Chinese state electricity utility company.

“Looking forward, Egypt is much nearer to being a regional energy hub,” Tao said.

Egypt’s energy and electricity strategy must be updated periodically to reflect new developments, allowing the share of renewable sources for electricity generation to be achieved by 2050 to go up to 53 per cent, Hani Nokraschy, an international energy expert, told the Weekly.

This, he said, would reduce, or even eliminate, the need for coal in energy generation.

The main motivation for using coal in Egypt’s energy mix, he explained, was the electricity deficit in 2014, with imported coal providing a quick solution to reduce reliance on imported gas. Today, he said, this approach was radically changing in the wake of the lower costs of renewable sources, as well as Egypt’s recent natural gas discoveries and rising environmental concerns about coal power-generation.

Hassan Amin, chair of Aqua Power which is executing three solar energy projects in the Banban area of Aswan among other areas, stressed that one of the challenges facing the implementation of renewable energy projects, whether from solar or wind power, was the lack of technical studies of the areas allocated.

Some studies could take two full years, causing delays in project implementation, he said, stressing that pre-prepared studies based on the future planning of the land should be available to interested companies.

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