Egypt’s civilization is deep rooted in the world’s history; great achievements in astrology, medicine… and other fields are recorded in Egypt’s standing civilization. Its history in renewable energy is also recorded for having the first solar power demonstration about 100 years ago
Egypt has huge potential for being one of the richest-renewable energy countries worldwide. Its sunny weather characterizes almost all Egyptian governorates; in addition to the high wind speed in many areas and the River Nile can all give Egypt a huge leap forward. As a matter of fact, the energy sector is the spinal chord of any economy, as it is involved in all industries, whether agriculture, manufacturing, transportation…etc. Hence, increasing energy supply can ease up and decrease the cost of every aspect of life. For instance, the electricity demand in Egypt is mainly consumed by the residential and industrial sectors, which used 39.2% and 33.4% respectively in 2008-2009.
In Egypt, over the past few years, a special attention has been attributed to the renewable energy. According to a governmental plan, Egypt should be supplying 20% of the country’s total electricity generation through renewables by 2020. The plan is implemented under the supervision of The New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA), established in 1986 to oversee Egypt’s integration of renewable energy technologies and their implementation.
Around 33% of this plan will be financed by the public sector and executed by the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company. As for the remaining 67% will be offered as lucrative business opportunities, to the private sector and foreign investments.
Currently, Egypt has a total installed energy capacity of 23,502 MW, according to the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company’s Annual Book 2008-2009. Of this total capacity, 11.9% are generated from hydropower, 1.8% from wind power and more than 80% from conventional thermal energy sources.
When we consider that renewable energy sources comprise 4% of the world’s total power capacity and 3% of its total electricity capacity, we come to the conclusion that Egypt is already way ahead when compared to global rates as it generates about 13.7% of its electricity capacity from renewables.
In addition to environmental sustainability, another argument can be made about the cost effectiveness of renewable energy projects. Therefore, one must analyze the cost-benefit analysis for each geographic region’s specific conditions; for instance, power generated from solar energy in London yields totally different results compared to Egypt’s Wahat El-Kharga.
In the following paragraphs, Egypt’s potential and opportunities in this regard will be analyzed and renewable energy sources will be contrasted with the currently dominating oil and gas energy sources. This will be undertaken primarily in terms of their economic benefits and their impact on the environment.
Wind Generated Power
Wind power in Egypt currently generates a mere 1.8% of its total capacity. In 2006, Egypt generated 225MW from wind power and the government planned to increase this figure to 845MW by 2010. However, according to Fathi Ameen, NREA Vice Chairman, Egypt’s wind power generation did not exceed the 400MW in 2009.
The Egyptian government allocated about 15,500 sq. km for wind farms; 8,000 of which are in the Red Sea area and the rest on the Nile Basin and in Upper Egypt.
According to a study conducted by M. El-Shimy from the Electric Power and Machines Department at Ain Shams University, the Red Sea region has a potential to generate 20,000 MW from wind sources, as the average wind speed there averages 8-10 m/s, a rate comparable to the best in the world. Ameen noted that the 2020 plan is to generate 7,200 MW from wind. If achieved, this rate can decrease Egypt’s CO2 emissions by 17 million tons and generate 12% of Egypt’s projected electricity demand. Zaafarana wind farms can be considered as a model for future projects.
In addition to the Red Sea region, there are other potentially useful areas with average wind speeds of 7-8 m/s on both sides of the Nile River, Beni Sueif, Al-Minya and Al-Kharga Oasis.
The Egyptian government supports wind farm projects implemented by the private sector by easing up permits for land, which are already obtained by NREA; in addition to exempting investors from custom duties on all imports related to renewable energy equipment. Financial risks on investors are also reduced by long-term power purchase agreements that extend to 20-25 years.
According to El-Shimy’s study, having an average solar radiation of 5.7301 KW/m. sq./day, “Egypt is considered one of the best regions all over the globe for solar energy related projects.” As a result, a feasibility study was performed to measure the returns on investments of photovoltaic power plants in different areas of Egypt. Wahat El-Kharga, with its 29.493 GWH/year capacity is considered as the best region in Egypt for generating solar-based power, and investors can cover their costs within 4.9 years. Safaga is the lowest of the studied regions with a capacity of 24.202 GWH/year and a return on investments can be achieved within 6.08 years.
It is worth mentioning that if a 10MW photovoltaic power plant is installed in Wahat El_kharga, a total of 30,187 barrels of oil will be saved sparing the environment 14,538 tons of CO2 emissions.
In conclusion, the coming governments should support the renewable energy sector and seize the opportunities symbolized in God’s given endowments to Egypt.
By: Aly Salah