Egypt's electricity ministry ducks blame for power cuts

Marwa Hussein, Saturday 28 Jul 2012

Spike in power cuts and electricity shortages are caused by protests at power plants, theft and fuel shortages, says electricity ministry spokesperson

Several areas in Egypt have suffered repeated power outages.

Egypt has been suffering an increasing number of power cuts in recent weeks, which have sparked protests in various governorates across the country.

Power cuts in Cairo and other major cities can last up to 90 minutes and occur every couple of days.

However, in villages the power cuts are more frequent and can last five hours or more. In the summer heat and during Ramadan, the effect is highly damaging for many people.

Aktham Abolela, spokesperson for the ministry of electricity, denied responsibility for the power cuts and blamed local protests at power plants, the security vacuum and fuel shortages.

“It is not our fault. The ministry had a plan to operate two new power plants by the end of May but protests by local people at the sites prevented them from being completed,” Abolela told Ahram Online.

Power plants in the Nile Delta governorates of Damietta and Beheira faced protests from locals who either objected to their location or demand compensation for the plants being built on their land.

The shortage of fuel and natural gas is partially responsible for the electricity shortage, claimed Abolela.

“Ask the ministry of petroleum about it, it is their responsibility,” he said.

The lack of security after the revolution has resulted in more theft of electricity, Abolela added.

An increase in the use of air conditioning due to higher summer temperatures in recent years can also be blamed for increased electricity consumption despite the economic slowdown.

There are more than six million air-conditioning units in Egypt today, up from three million in 2009 and 196,000 in 1999, official figures show.

These devices account for 20 per cent of total electricity use, according to Abolela.

Mahmoud Saad, head of Egyptian Electricity Holding Company, told the Al-Ahram Arabic news website that households comprise 42 per cent of total electricity consumption, while industry consumes 32 per cent, down from 38 per cent in 2007.

The figures Saad quoted are taken from a report on electricity consumption prepared for the minister of electricity.  

The unpredictable nature of power cuts make it difficult to warn the public about them prior to their occurrence, Abolela said.

He agreed that street lamps being in use during the daytime was a common phenomena that needed to be tackled.

“I add my voice to yours, this should be watched,” said Abolela, but blamed municipalities for the problem.

Street lamps consume 6 per cent of electricity production, he added.

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