Aswan solar power park highlights Egypt’s renewable energy strategy
CAIRO - Egypt is preparing to open a huge solar power park in the southern city of Aswan, a project that indicates the country’s renewable energy plans.
Benban Solar Park, a photovoltaic power station under construction since 2017 by nearly two dozen major renewable energy companies and thousands of Egyptian workers, will produce 1,600 megawatts of electricity when it fully operates later this year.
The 37.2 sq.km site is one of several projects undertaken by the Egyptian government with the aim of increasing dependence on renewable energy.
“Dependence on renewable energy will help our country reduce traditional energy consumption,” said Mohamed al-Sobki, a professor of energy planning at Cairo University. “This will save money and advance the national commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement of 2016.”
Egypt plans to increase the contribution of renewable energy to electricity production from less than 3% now to 20% in 2022 and then raise that figure to 40% by 2035. Moves towards that goal include the construction of several major solar power plants and wind farms.
Thousands of state institutions, including schools, are turning to renewable energies by installing solar power equipment on their roofs. Some institutions are feeding the national electric grid, making money by selling electricity to the state-operated network.
To encourage investments in the renewable energy sector, Egypt has enacted laws to allow the sale of electricity by individuals and companies to the national network. The laws also permit the flow of investments in renewable energy.
“Renewable energy investments always have huge returns,” said Walid al-Khattam, the head of the Renewable Energy Programme at Ain Shams University. “Egypt also has a competitive edge when it comes to all types of clean energy.”
There is no estimate of renewable energy investments in Egypt but the number of renewable energy companies and renewable energy projects are on the rise.
Renewable energy companies are constructing solar power plants on rooftops amid increasing demand by citizens and private and public institutions. The demand is increasing in part because of the rise in the price of electricity after the near total elimination of subsidies, a facet of Egypt’s economic reform programme.
Renewable energy is empowering members of the general public who can provide the national network with electricity instead of waiting for the network to give them electricity.
Major renewable energy projects such as Benban are also empowering Egypt. The project is subdivided into 41 plots that make up the world’s largest solar power park. The park is expected to be connected to the national electricity network soon after it begins operations. Four new substations are being established for this purpose.
When operating fully, the Benban Solar Park will reduce up to 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year. This will help Egypt demonstrate commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Together with growing production from the national network, the project will help Egypt implement its strategy of becoming a regional electricity-sharing centre.
Egypt moved from an electricity deficit to a surplus in five years. The country produced less than 30,000 megawatts of electricity annually in 2014, which was far from enough to satisfy national consumption.
To increase production, the Egyptian government spent nearly $25 billion to construct electrical power plants. The new plants increased national production to 28,000 megawatts of electricity a year.
Egypt shares 450 megawatts of electricity with Jordan and 150 megawatts with Libya. There are also plans to share electricity with Sudan and Saudi Arabia.
Apart from electricity sharing, the construction of the world’s largest solar power park promotes Egypt as a model for other African countries. This is something Egyptian companies working in the field of renewable energy look forward to.
“Local companies constructing the park have acquired enough expertise from the project,” said Khaled Abu Bakr, head of one of the companies working on the project. “We will work to transfer this expertise to other African countries, either through the transfer of power or constructing renewable energy plants in these countries.”