Power outages in Egypt might extend until mid-September: Cabinet

Aya Salah , Sunday 30 Jul 2023

Ongoing power outages across Egypt could extend through August and even into mid-September in a worst-case scenario if the heatwave does not relent, Cabinet Spokesman Nader Saad warned.

This picture taken after sunset on July 24, 2023 shows a view of the Cairo skyline from the Moqattam district. AP


The soaring temperatures, which have reached nearly 40 degrees Celsius in most areas of Egypt and surpassed 45 degrees in the south, have led to a record-breaking electricity consumption of 34,650 megawatts (MW) during peak hours, placing immense strain on the country's natural gas network that fuels power plants.

To alleviate the mounting pressure on the gas network, the government has implemented temporary electricity load reductions since mid-July. However, these load-shedding measures have resulted in power outages across Egypt.

The spokesman indicated that these measures could be reduced if temperatures fall.

During a phone interview with Sada El-Balad satellite channel on Saturday night, Saad expressed deep regret and referred to the UN secretary-general's recent remarks that the world has entered an "era of global boiling" due to the record-shattering July temperatures.

"We apologize for the current situation regarding load shedding due to climate change,” Saad said.

"The crisis of rising temperatures has led to a significant and unprecedented drawdown of [natural] gas intended for power stations, impacting gas pressure and resulting in the current crisis we are experiencing," Saad explained.

Egypt, a major natural gas exporter, has suspended its gas exports during the summer months to ensure adequate energy supplies for the domestic power plants, he noted.

The country boasts natural gas reserves of 2.1 trillion cubic metres, but technical constraints have limited any further increase in daily production capacity.

The government has taken urgent measures, including importing quantities of mazut – a substitute fuel oil – valued between $250-300 million, to bolster fuel supplies for the power plants, he said.

Saad emphasized that the quantities of gas supplied to power plants have not been reduced. Instead, the government has diverted up to 15 percent of gas from fertilizer factories to meet the demands of the power stations

In a press conference on Thursday, Madbouly said that Egypt consumes 144 to 146 million cubic metres of gas and diesel daily to meet power generation demands.

Easing loads has been necessary to keep daily consumption below 160-165 million cubic metres of gas and diesel, an amount which would not have been feasible to procure.

Saad also confirmed that there has been significant investment in renewable energy in an attempt to decrease the share of electricity generated from fossil fuels.

Denying rumours 

On Tuesday, the Cabinet released a statement denying recent claims that the largest gas field in the Mediterranean, Zohr, is experiencing a decline in production due to technical issues.

Saad seconded this denial, explaining that the field is operating effectively, with a normal production decrease rate of five percent, which is very low compared to other fields worldwide that have production decrease rates of 15-20 percent.  

Saad also clarified that there are no plans to cancel daylight saving time. Studies conducted by the ministries of petroleum and electricity confirm its importance in saving up to 10 percent of energy use, he added.

“There is no consideration of cancelling daylight saving time. The most important consideration is to conserve energy, such as turning off lights after employees leave government institutions and bodies,” Nader explained.

Saad also revealed that as part of the overall effort to address the energy crisis, buildings in the New Administrative Capital (NAC) will be closed after official work hours, and unnecessary air conditioning and lighting will be avoided.

In addition to the building closures, Saad also emphasized plans to turn off billboards on the streets after 10pm in the near future. However, he clarified that this measure is not currently in effect, as advertisers have already made payments for these billboards.

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