'When the wind is blowing': Egyptian renewable energy attracts investment

Ghada Raafat , Tuesday 21 Aug 2018

Wind turbines
Wind Turbines (Photo: Reuters)

Investors are looking forward to the announcement of the winning company for the tender to construct a 250 MW wind-power plant in the Gulf of Suez.

The company that will execute the project will be selected from a short list of three including the German energy giant Siemens, the Danish Vestas Wind Systems Company, and Senvion, a wind-turbine manufacturer founded in Germany in 2001.

The financing for the project will be provided by the German Development Bank, the French Development Agency and the European Investment Bank.

The government is targeting the development of renewable energy projects in Egypt so that renewable energy will constitute 20 per cent of the country’s energy mix by 2020, according to the energy strategy approved by the cabinet and the Supreme Energy Council in October 2016.

According to Ihab Ismail, deputy chairman for technical affairs of the New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA), many projects are now underway to generate electricity from wind and solar energy.

Installed wind-power projects now total 970 MW, he said, adding the most of these were financed by international development partners from Germany, Spain and Japan.

A 220 MW wind plant at Gabal Al-Zeit was recently inaugurated by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

The cabinet has recently approved the establishment of another wind-power project with a total capacity of 500 MW in the Gulf of Suez at an estimated cost of $740 million.

Ismail stressed that most of the wind-power projects under construction have been financed by soft loans. The NREA is the owner of these projects and is responsible for paying back the loans.

The projects have a capacity of nearly 300 MW, including one representing an expansion of the Gabal Al-Zeit plant. It is expected that it will be ready for testing in October.

The Spanish government also provided the loan for the construction of the 120 MW wind plant at Gabal Al-Zeit that was recently completed and will begin operations in September.

Another wind-power plant currently under construction is being built by a consortium of Orascom and the Japanese company Toyota.

The project is funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation with a total investment of $380 million.

Wind-power projects offer employment opportunities for people from the governorates where they are built, said Hala Al-Khouli, director of wind energy at the NREA.

She said that 30 per cent of wind turbines are locally manufactured and the bases, masts, cables and transformers used are also made in Egypt by Egyptian companies, though using imported materials.

The turbine blades and generators are imported from foreign contractors.

The wind-power projects are being carried out by private-sector companies on a build, own and operate basis (BOO) or as independent producer projects (IPP) in which the company concerned contracts to sell the electricity produced at a predetermined price.

According to Al-Khouli, most of the projects have been established in Gabal Al-Zeit and the Gulf of Suez because of the high wind speeds that make wind farms in these areas economically feasible.

Wind energy plants need to be developed in other areas east and west of the River Nile, so that Egypt can achieve 12 per cent of wind energy in its energy mix by 2020, she said.

She added that electricity produced from wind under the feed-in tariff programme has not been as attractive to investors as solar power, which has attracted 32 companies to build the country’s largest solar complex operating on photovoltaic technology in Benban in Aswan in Upper Egypt.

Among these companies is Infinity Solar, which has completed the construction of a 50 MW photovoltaic plant. The company has been providing electricity to the national electricity grid since February.

The FAS Company is also building a solar-power plant with a capacity of 50 MW in Benban that is expected to start operating in October. Both companies were beneficiaries of the first phase of the feed-in tariff programme.

Another 30 companies plan to contribute to projects producing 1,365 MW in the second phase of the feed-in tariff programme.

These projects are expected to be completed in the first half of 2019, and when completed the Benban area will host around 1,800 MW of solar-power projects, making it the world’s largest solar-power plant.

There are scattered smaller photovoltaic stations with a total capacity of 30 KW in Siwa, Farafra, Darb Al-Arbain, Abu Menqar, Marsa Alam, Halayeb, Shalatin and Abu Ramad, said Mohamed Al-Khayat, chair of the NREA. They were financed by grants from the United Arab Emirates.

There are also other small stations across the country with total capacities not exceeding 80 KW, including those built on the roofs of buildings to pump water and provide electricity to remote areas.

*The writer is a freelance journalist.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 August 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Renewables attract investment 

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