On the occasion of Arab Environment Day 2014, ECESR welcomes the Government’s announcement of a progressive Feed in Tariff policy to encourage the uptake of solar and wind energy in Egypt. This is a step in the right direction for plugging the energy gap the country is currently suffering from, using sustainable and healthy solutions that best serve the interests of future generations.
Arab Environment Day is an opportunity to praise the new Feed in Tariffs policy as acting in the best interests of Egyptians, but the Ministry of Industry’s cynical attempt to alleviate opposition to coal by inviting tenders for “new [coal] and renewable energy sources” together will do nothing to cover up the overall unsustainable trajectory of Egypt’s energy policy under President Al-Sisi.
ECESR fears and condemns the Government’s push to convert the electricity sector to imported sources of coal. Combustion of coal in electrical power plants poses even greater threats to human health, energy price stability, Egypt’s energy sovereignty and the protection of Egypt’s ecosystems than the conversion of the cement industry to coal.
Where conversion of existing power plants is concerned ECESR has found that the top three governorates containing power plants are Giza, Cairo and Alexandria. The governorates of Cairo and Giza are the top two most populated governorates in Egypt. To unleash the disastrous effects of coal – whether from “clean coal plants” or the more likely older and heavy-polluting plants – there will be large numbers of governorate residents suffering as a result. As is the nature of Cairo and Giza’s development, some of the poorest residents are condemned to live nearest the power plants; those with the least capacity to afford moving away from the source of pollution or to pay for the healthcare they will need in the medium and long term as the effects of burning coal accumulate in their bodies.
Ex-Minister for Petroleum Ossama Kamel has also denounced the Government’s rush to use coal as the solution for Egypt’s energy crisis, highlighting the lack of viable transportation infrastructure for coal to move around inside Egypt, the unfit roads that will have to cope with an extra 250,000-500,000 trucks on Egypt’s roads every year. The risk of pollution from coal does not only derive from burning the fuel itself, it also derives from its unsafe and unregulated transportation by road, rail or water. Currently coal is being transported, unregulated, from ports to cement factories by road; coal fired power stations will use the same system, distributing dangerous and noxious coal dust from the port and across areas of high population density, in Cairo and Giza for example. For further information on the health effects of coal, please see this previous ECESR publication.
ECESR strongly advises a sustainable development strategy for Egypt requires capitalizing on Egypt’s native resources, decreasing its reliance on foreign funding, lending or sources of energy, and investing in solutions to the countries developmental challenges that do not compromise the ability of future generations ability to survive in a healthy environment. Building Egypt’s energy infrastructure around a central policy of importing coal will lock-in an unnecessarily carbon-heavy dependence that will become increasingly costly, both in financial terms and in health terms, as the availability and therefore price of fossil fuels becomes increasingly volatile and increases over the coming decades. Whilst international investment companies such as Goldmann Sachs advise against investing in coal, and for investing in renewables, Egypt is stepping back in time and pinning all its hopes on the most polluting fossil fuel in the world. We find this a wholly destructive decision that shows contempt for the wellbeing of the country’s people that we cannot accept.
ECESR calls on President Al-Sisi’s government to prove its concern for the Egyptian people and rescind its policy to bring coal to the electricity sector in Egypt.