THE DURATION and frequency of the power cuts in Egypt have been on the rise recently, with blackouts extending to 90 minutes or two hours daily.
A cabinet statement on Sunday attributed the worsening situation to an increase in the demand for electricity due to the increase in temperature compared to the average for the time of year, which in turn has led to a significant increase in electricity consumption as well as a parallel decrease in local energy production.
The consumption of the local gas used to operate power stations spiked over the past week, with a peak of 700 million cubic feet recorded on Saturday alone and representing an 18 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, the cabinet statement said.
Egypt has been adopting a load-shedding policy since July as the summer months witnessed unprecedented increases in temperatures leading to the greater use of air-conditioners, fridges, and fans.
Meanwhile, the local production of natural gas has been dropping, with reports putting the decline in the second quarter of 2023 at between five and seven per cent compared to the previous quarter to hover around 5.8 billion cubic feet, its lowest since the same quarter of 2020.
Production at the country,s largest gas field, the Zohr Field, has dropped due to technical issues.
Another factor cited by the statement is the drop in Egypt’s gas imports from 800 million cubic feet of gas per day to zero. The closure of the Israeli Tamar Field since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict has resulted in halting Israel’s gas exports to Egypt and translated into a 20 per cent drop in Egypt’s energy imports.
Chevron, the US oil giant operating Israel’s largest gas field, the Levathian Field, has halted natural gas exports through the East Mediterranean Gas (EMG) pipeline linking Israel and Egypt and is now supplying gas via the Fajr pipeline through Jordan, the company said on 10 October.
“Following the instruction by the [Israeli] Ministry of Energy to shut production at the Tamar Production Platform and the security situation in the south of Israel, all exports to Egypt have been re-routed via the Arab Gas Pipeline that links Israel to Jordan and Egypt,” a Chevron spokesperson said.
The cabinet said plans to extend the duration of the current power cuts will continue until weather forecasts get back to normal. Some media reports say the cuts could get worse or last for years because of the decline in local gas production.
The government announced in August a schedule of the time and duration of power cuts in each district in the country. According to previous statements, the daily one-hour power cuts will continue as long as temperatures surpass 35 degrees Celsius.
Egypt currently faces a $17 billion financing gap, forcing the country to take various measures to secure hard currency, including by cutting the consumption of natural gas in order to increase exports. Earlier this month, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said Egypt could save $3.49 billion annually through the daily power cuts.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 2 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly