The case of Egypt and renewable energy.
Although the world has seen great developments in renewable sources of energy, there are still many countries where the potential of renewable energy is untapped. This is the case of Egypt, where wind and sun are abundant but yet not widely used to generate electricity. This is particularly alarming since a considerable portion of the population has no access to electricity at all .
Why Could Egypt be a Perfect Place for Renewable Energy?
The answer to this question is easy: Egypt has a lot of sun and wind. In fact, the country receives more than twice the sunshine as Germany, which is well known for its solar energy industry. Moreover, there are abundant wind resources coming from the Red Sea.
This situation puts Egypt in a privileged position regarding its potential to explore renewable sources of energy. However, these technologies have a negative reputation in this country, where fossil fuels are still perceived as the best and most efficient sources of electricity.
Why are Renewable Sources of Energy Not a Big Industry?
Unfortunately, natural gas and oil account for 90% of Egypt’s electricity generation. Problems in fuel and transmission capacity lead to frequent and unscheduled blackouts in this country.
The head of Petroleum and Energy Engineering Department at the American University in Cairo blamed fuel subsidies to encourage fuel consumption. He stressed that this costs the government a lot of money which could be more wisely used to cover the peoples’ need. He stated:
Because of subsidies, it’s impossible for anybody to compete with fossil fuels”
The government launched the subsidies in the 1960’s, during a socialist presidency. At this point in time, Egypt’s population was around 30 million, but has multiplied fast. As a consequence, there has been a vast rise in subsidized fuel consumption which the government can’t handle any longer.
This might be the number one reason why renewable sources of energy are not popular in Egypt. One of the drawbacks of green energy is that they generally mean a considerable initial investment and therefore government support is essential. Without financial help, it is impossible for businesses and private households to meet the upfront costs of installing renewable sources of energy.
Moreover, political struggles also add up to the slow development of the renewables industry. There is no consensus between governors to approve big projects and so many initiatives are never approved. If this situation is not reverted, it will be hard to take on successful projects.
A reduction in the subsidies to fossil fuels and a rise in their prices has created some hopes for the renewable energy industry, specially for solar and wind energy. As most of European countries have done already, the Mubarak government has also set green energy targets for 2020. Although at the moment less than one percent of energy is produced by renewable sources, the government hopes to generate 20% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.