Renewables capacity stayed flat last year even as output rose: Last year registered no growth in the country’s renewable energy capacity, with wind and solar capacity even registering slight declines. But despite the apparent halt in bringing new projects online, renewable energy output — the amount of electricity generated by renewable sources in the country — grew nearly 7%, according to the New and Renewable Energy Authority’s (NREA) 2022 renewables report. So what happened — and what the prospects are for getting renewables growth going again this year and beyond?
Renewables capacity remained more or less flat last year: Installed hydroelectric capacity — which accounts for nearly half of total capacity — stayed flat in 2022 compared to the year before at some 2.8 GW. Installed wind capacity fell by a marginal 10 MW to record 1.6 GW, while solar capacity fell by 100 MW to register 1.5 GW. Biofuel — fuel generated from waste and biomass — was the only renewable source to see growth last year, rising nearly fivefold to record 56 MW. That’s still a very small contribution to our overall renewables capacity, which stood at just under 6.1 GW by the end of 2022 — down some 66 MW on last year.
But we’re generating more electricity out of our existing renewables plants: Renewables plants fed some 25.6 GWh of electricity into the national grid last year, an increase of 6.7% on 2021. Hydroelectric, wind, and biofuels output all increased, with solar the only type of energy to see production fall in tandem with a decrease in installed capacity.
Hydroelectric power continued to account for a big chunk of our renewable electricity output: Egypt generated some 15.0k gigawatt hours (GWh) of power from hydroelectric sources in 2022 — about a 6.4% y-o-y increase on 2021, according to the NREA report.
And GERD hasn’t yet had a detrimental effect: Most of Egypt’s hydroelectric power comes from the Aswan High Dam, which has a 2.1 GW capacity but rarely reaches that capacity due to low water levels, according to a 2022 study in Energies journal. Over the course of this decade, Ethiopia’s GERD mega-dam on the upstream Nile is likely to affect power generation out of Aswan thanks to lower water levels, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has predicted. The increase in hydropower generation last year suggests that hasn’t yet come to pass — likely thanks to last year’s high flood, which negated the impact of the the third filling of GERD on Nile river flows, Water and Irrigation Minister Hany Sewilam told MPs in January.
Wind power generation picked up pace: Some 6.1k GWh of wind energy was generated in 2022, up 13.0% y-o-y, despite the slight fall in installed capacity. The NREA doesn’t give an explanation of the figures, but that could be the result of more efficiency in transferring the energy created at wind farms to the grid and other upgrades at our wind farms — or of better weather conditions.
Solar power output took a small step backwards in line with reduced capacity: Some 4.4k GWh of solar power was produced in 2022, marking a modest 2.2% y-o-y decline from the previous year as capacity dropped by around 100 MW. There’s also some 217.2 MW of electric capacity contained in facilities not connected to the national grid and backup generators around the country, New and Renewable Energy Authority head Mohamed El Khayat told us previously.
Biofuels on the rise: Power generation from biofuel sources, while still a small part of our overall energy mix, grew more than sevenfold to hit 89 GWh amid the near fivefold increase in capacity.
Biofuel production is set to rise further over the coming years: Egypt’s updated emissions targets include a plan to extract 350k tons of algae oil annually for use in the production of biofuels and generate 100k tons of bioethanol annually.
So why did renewables development stall last year? Efforts to add new renewables capacity have been hindered by “uncertainty over the government’s plans for state-owned utility projects and delays in the competitive auction scheme,” the International Energy Agency said in its 2022 global renewables report. Overcapacity has also slowed renewables growth, the IEA said, noting that our current electricity generation capacity — across both renewable and non renewable sources — stands at almost double peak demand. A lack of private finance for new projects has also been a sticking point.
But that could be about to change: In return for more than USD 550 mn in finance from Europe and the US to help Egypt decarbonize its power infrastructure, the country has agreed to ramp up the rate at which we bring new renewables capacity to the grid from a current target of sourcing 42% of our energy from renewables by 2030. Look for the government to submit a revised target in June. Even without taking into account the revised target, Egypt’s renewable energy capacity is on track to grow some 65% by 2027, according to the IEA.
There’s plenty in the pipeline: Private companies are currently constructing or developing some 2.8 GW of fresh wind capacity, while the state is set to add 252 MW of wind capacity in the Gulf of Suez, according to the NREA. Another 700 MW of solar power is in the works from private players, and the government is also working to build a 20-MW solar plant in Hurghada, the report reads. A planned tender for the Hurghada plant has been postponed by a month to close this Wednesday, 22 February so bidders can reassess their figures following the devaluation of the EGP.
And plans are underway to build much more wind capacity: Initial agreements for mega wind projects set to bring a massive 29.5 GW of new wind power online were signed between private sector developers and the government during November’s COP27 climate summit in Sharm El Sheikh. The agreements include two 10 GW wind farms that are set to become among the largest in the world. The investment cost for all these projects is set to exceed USD 34 bn. They are in the early stages of development, so there is no breakdown on how they will be financed yet.
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