Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1130, 10 - 16 January 2013
Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Issue 1130, 10 - 16 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Let there be light

Recent shortages of fuel to supply electricity stations are hindering the government’s efforts to sustain future power generation, reports Ahmed Kotb

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MEE) has been complaining about shortages in fuel supplies for Egypt’s electricity stations since the beginning of last month, causing power cuts across the country. While the situation has been resolved temporarily, the problem could happen again due to government cash shortages. With the deterioration of Egypt’s economic situation, and continuous credit downgrades, fuel exporters have required that the government pay in cash, not on credit, as in the past.

The National Centre of Power Control (NCPC) of the MEE reported on 27 December that the national grid is losing more than 4,000 Megawatts (MW) of its total capacity (estimated at 28,000MW) as a result of the fuel supply shortage to 15 electricity production stations with high power generation capacity.

The outages are similar to those of the summer, and they both share the same reason, which is easing the load on the main electricity grid by cutting power alternately in many areas of different governorates.

However, consumption in the summer is much more than that at this time of year. The problem this time, according to Aktham Abul-Ela, deputy MEE spokesperson, is that many electricity stations are not receiving their normal supply of natural gas and Mazut, which the stations use as a source of energy to keep generating power for the grid.

The Ministry of Petroleum, for its part, said in a press release on 27 December that the shortage lasted for a couple of hours only, because of maintenance in some of the main natural gas fields, and that this was an “ordinary” situation.

According to the Ministry of Petroleum, electricity stations consume about 80 per cent of Egypt’s daily needs of natural gas. Egypt produces six billion cubic feet of natural gas, 20 per cent of which is exported.

“This has never happened in the winter before,” said Ahmed Bahgat, professor of electrical engineering at Cairo University. Consumption in winter drops to about 21,000MW against 27,500MW in summer. “If the grid cannot meet the demand in the winter, then the situation in the summer might be catastrophic,” he stated.

Besides, Bahgat added, the continuity of fuel supply shortages to electricity stations will lead to frequent malfunctions that will exacerbate in the summer as a result of scorching temperatures.

Although Abul-Ela stated that the fuel supply to electricity stations is now more stable, there is no guarantee that shortages will not reoccur, especially that new electricity projects have started operation and others are under way. These projects mean that MEE’s fuel needs have grown and will continue to grow.

The awaited electricity production projects include Ain Al-Sokhna station, with a capacity of 1,300MW and investment worth LE10 billion. Another project soon to begin operation is the connected electricity stations of North Giza and Banha with a capacity of 1,500MW and 750MW respectively.

As for renewable energy projects, a wind farm in the Suez Gulf is one of eight wind energy production projects currently underway, along with a new solar energy mega project to begin operation by 2017.

All of the latter projects are part of a five-year plan from 2012 to 2017 that is targeting the production of 12,400MW, with 3,000MW of these coming from renewable energy projects. The MEE has previously announced that they expect 20 per cent of total energy production to come from renewables by the year 2020.

As for Egypt’s nuclear power programme, Abul-Ela said that 4,000MW is expected to be generated from nuclear power plants by 2025, and that the first nuclear plant should begin operation by 2020.

The MEE has announced recently that it is studying the establishment of the first mega station that operates by coal as a source of energy with a capacity of 1,950MW. The move, according to the ministry, is mainly to find a way to secure its emergency needs with a cheaper source of energy.

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