It’s dark at an upscale Cairo café. It’s not closed and service continues despite the only light coming from windows along two walls. The cause was an electricity outage. While it only lasted around 15 minutes, it was one of thousands of power cuts this past summer in Egypt as overuse left many without power for large portions of the day.
Across the river from Cairo’s upscale Zamalek neighborhood lies Imbaba, a lower-class neighborhood, and one of the harder hit areas of the Egyptian capital. “We had some days where we didn’t have power for six hours, sometimes longer,” Hassan Ghozlan, a local resident, told Green Prophet. And they still continue, he added. “Still, some days it goes out for a few hours, even during the evening when it is cooler,” he added.
The government has said that too many air-conditioners are to blame for the cuts. Either way, there is hope for the country’s citizens, as a new project aims to tackle electricity by using alternative power methods.
Amr Farouk, a renewable energy expert and one of the founders of Egypt’s Solar Energy Association, believes the country should look to harnessing the sun to overcome power shortages.
“Egypt’s energy consumption has gradually changed in recent years,” he said at a lecture recently in Cairo. “People are now using more electrical devices … Every single air-conditioner in the country may sometimes be at work for 11 hours daily during the hot months.”
He added that “the ordinary Egyptian household uses an average of five kilowatts of energy per day, which means that it consumes about 1,500 kilowatt hours monthly.”
This problem of power consumption has brought with it a new set of ideas.
And he hopes that if the government can reduce taxes, and give incentives, to companies dealing in solar power, it can quickly become one of Egypt’s most usable renewable sources for energy and power.
His association also has delivered a series of power-saving options that he hopes the government will be able to implement in the near future, to tackle the immediate issues at hand.
Among those are installing energy-saving light bulbs and erecting some 10,000 solar water heaters over the next 30 years. “Newer and more efficient appliances are also key to solving this problem,” he argued.
Still, there are two issues that must have an answer before these ideas can come into policy. Energy-saving light bulbs are too expensive for the vast majority of citizens, often costing 5-7 times as much as an ordinary bulb. This would be unfeasible for a country that is already struggling with economic issues.
And second, the urban layout of Egypt’s cities is not particularly conducive to solar energy.
Mahmoud Salem, a PhD student from London University, told Green Prophet that “while solar power should not be thrown off the table, the government and organizations working in the sector need to get creative if they are to tackle it.
“The key issue is the randomness of buildings in the city, where some rooftops get very little, if any sunlight because they are covered by the surrounding buildings,” he added.
But Farouk has a solution to this conundrum.
“We can change consumers to producers, by installing renewable energy equipment in households,” Farouk explains. “For example, photovoltaic cells that are used for the generation of electricity can be installed in normal houses to generate electricity either for the same house or for the neighboring houses when connected using a mini-grid.”
This, he argued would put the power back to the people and would help communities search and develop their own solar panels in order to deliver greater energy at a cheaper cost than what is already on the market.
For now, all these ideas are in their infant development stage, but with minds like Farouk looking for solutions, the concept of clean energy at a cheaper price could go a long way to solving the energy crisis facing Egypt.
Image of camel in the sun from Shutterstock