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80 Gigawatts of Change: Egypt’s Future Electricity Pathways

On April 26, 2016, the German Science Centre (DWZ) hosted the release of the study 80 Gigawatts of Change focusing on Egypt’s Future Electricity Pathways, followed by a workshop for energy specialists. 80 Gigawatts of Change is the first publicly accessible, modeled and civil society analyzed scenario for the Egyptian electrical sector ever produced. The study was conducted by Isabel Bottoms who works as an independent consultant specialized in zero carbon policies and Mahmoud El-Refai from Siemens Technologies S.A.E.

The event follows the German Science Centre’s annual conference “Re-thinking Energy: Scientific Input- Social Outcome”, which took place in November 2015 and analyzed a range of energy topics from the expansion of renewable energies, to socio-economic implications and the need for building awareness.

The introductory remarks were given by Laura Oexle, Head of the Science Department, German Embassy in Egypt and Dr. Mona El Tobgui, Deputy Director of the German Science Centre & Fraunhofer Senior Advisor.

Behind the 80 Gigawatts of Change

The study is the culmination of an 8-month project endeavoring to model how Egypt’s electricity sector could look in 20 years' time if social and environmental constraints and community impacts are taken into account. The report aims to have Egypt reach an energy production of 80 Gigawatts to sustain its growing population and remove its current status as an energy importer offering seven different pathways, each with different implications, costs, greenhouse gas emissions and benefits. The report analyzes the attributes and downsides of each scenario, including job creation potential, cost and greenhouse gas emissions. It took a year, six consultants and several workshops with experts from the energy sector and from the civil society to put together this valuable tool for policymakers.

Isabel Bottoms explained that the motivation behind the report derives from the national coal debate, energy crisis and lack of energy literacy. It was stressed by those in civil society and those who were participating in energy debates that it is the lack of R&D, particularly in the private sector that is still lacking. State driven R&D has been prevalent in the past without providing viable solutions to the above mentioned challenges. “There was this gap that we assessed and we found that there was no publicly accessible evaluations of what the possibilities were, how much it would cost and its impact. We want to provide something that has technical basis but is easily communicated,” Isabel Bottoms said.

The 7 Electricity Pathways

Each pathway’s assessment structure covers infrastructure, imports/exports, energy access, implementers, costs, CO2 emissions and job creation. It is also assessed through its enabling pillars: institutional reform, finance, data and reporting, and capacity building.

Egypt’s current energy mix according to the Generation Capacity of 2014 is comprised of Thermal 27 GW, Hydro 2.8 GW, Wind 0.7 GW and 0 GW for Solar, Nuclear and Biomass, resulting in a total of 30.5 GW.

1.      “Business As Usual” is the pathway with the 3rd highest oil consumption and 4th highest in GHG emissions.

2.      “Business As Usual with Coal” is a state centric model of energy generation with no citizen involvement which implies high water and air pollution.

3.      “Towards Zero Carbon” integrates governorates and communities into the Egyptian energy market. Its advantages are low water use due to reduced fossil fuel reliance and that it has the most cost-effective method of achieving GHG emissions reductions.

4.      “Towards Zero Carbon with Nuclear” entails concerns over energy security with regards to uranium within the next 40 years. Furthermore, nuclear energy is the most water-consuming energy source of all – Egypt is predicted to be in total water crisis by 2025.

5.      “Towards Zero Carbon with Concentrated Solar Power” implies a dramatically reduced amount of total oil consumption as compared to all other pathways. Yet it is the most expensive due to the relatively high costs of investing in new technologies for solar power. However, it creates the second highest potential for job creation.

6.      “Towards Energy Independence” has the lowest GHG emissions of all pathways, and the highest biomass share, which creates thriving local economies What is more, it reduces the sewage burden, and hence improves water quality.

7.      “Towards Decentralized Energy”, has the lowest gas use, highest potential for job creation, the second lowest oil consumption as well as GHG emissions. In addition, it is the most participatory and empowering pathway due to the fact that decentralized energy production brings multi-faceted co-benefits.   

Workshop Activation

Attendees who are prominent specialists within the field of energy took part in the workshop. They were split into three groups focusing on the questions “How can we mainstream and operationalize broader forms of impacts analysis for energy in Egypt?”, “Decentralizing energy in Egypt: how can we move away from the baseload restriction, build opportunities for communities and empower governorates” and “What are the openings for rolling out energy efficiency measures and renewables in Egyptian cities?”.

Decisively, it was discussed that public awareness on renewable energy and energy efficiency and the impact of types of energy on the environment should be promoted. Another major point is the development of green architecture as current architecture is not compliant with the environment for energy saving purposes, which especially striking in new urban areas. Although, renewable energy projects are on the rise in Egypt, there unfortunately is a shortage of funding. This is mainly due to a lack of know-how among lending local banks and hence a structurally biased risk assessment with regards to renewable energy projects. In addition, decentralization and greater community ownership is both, positive for community’s cohesion and development, and creates the co-benefit of reduced GHG emissions.

Looking Forward to Egypt’s Energy

Egypt’s population is growing by 2 percent every year, which puts an enormous strain on the energy sector to produce enough energy for all. So, the other issue is that Egypt is an importer of energy and over the past few years, the country has started adopting the use of coal for energy intensive industries and is considering using coal for power stations. It is also talking about a huge nuclear program, while in parallel to this there have been movements in the renewable energy sector. In September 2014, the Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker announced the feed-in tariff, a mechanism that allows people and industry to sell their excess power to the state. Also accompanied, there is a plan to phase out energy subsidies by the end of 2019.

The report’s next steps is to include a deeper study with a 2050 end-date covering the full energy sector, digging further down into decentralization and breaking away from baseloads, as well as more financial analysis of energy in Egypt. In addition, mainstream holistic impact analysis techniques will be applied in Egypt with international contractors, developers and funders, including the active fostering of a vibrant public discussion on energy in Egypt.