News / Middle East

Energy-short Egypt Faces Long, Hot Summer

Mostafa Khaled, 20, studies by candlelight for his early morning exams during a power cut in Toukh, about 25 km northeast of Cairo, May 26, 2013.Mostafa Khaled, 20, studies by candlelight for his early morning exams during a power cut in Toukh, about 25 km northeast of Cairo, May 26, 2013.
x
Mostafa Khaled, 20, studies by candlelight for his early morning exams during a power cut in Toukh, about 25 km northeast of Cairo, May 26, 2013.
Mostafa Khaled, 20, studies by candlelight for his early morning exams during a power cut in Toukh, about 25 km northeast of Cairo, May 26, 2013.
Reuters
A gift of gas to Egypt from tiny Qatar shows just how tough this summer is shaping up to be for the government in Cairo, facing a funding crunch and power cuts as it struggles to contain explosive public discontent.
 
Daily blackouts have darkened homes and businesses across the country over the past few weeks, aggravated in recent days by an early summer heat wave that has Egyptians cranking up their air conditioners.
 
Qatar on Monday offered five cargoes of liquefied natural gas (LNG), worth perhaps $300 million, “as a gift to the Egyptian people during the summer months.”
 
It is a small gesture from a Gulf ally which has already lent Egypt some $7 billion in the past year but highlights how tough times are for the 84 million Egyptians.
 
Falling living standards since the 2011 revolt that ended six decades of military rule have led to disillusionment focused on Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. Opponents have called for mass protests on June 30, the first anniversary of Morsi's election.
 
The country's budget deficit has widened, the Egyptian pound has weakened, and investors have taken fright, sending the Cairo share index on Monday to its lowest close in more than 10 months.
 
A vicious circle of unrest and slumping tourism revenues have drained government cash reserves, leaving ministers scrambling for favors abroad, notably to maintain supplies of heavily subsidized fuel and bread that account for a quarter of all government spending.
 
“We will suffer this summer,” said Mohamed Shoeib, who until recently ran EGAS, the state natural gas company, and is now a managing director at private equity firm Citadel Capital.
 
“This will be the hardest and most difficult and darkest summer Egypt has ever seen,” he added.
 
Adding to worries about energy, the month-long Muslim fast of Ramadan will begin around July 9, a time when tempers can fray as temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius and above.
 
Facing a fiscal crunch
 
Since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, the authorities have run through more than half of Egypt's foreign reserves, or some $20 billion.

Youths jump into the sea to cool off on a hot day in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria May 24, 2013.Youths jump into the sea to cool off on a hot day in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria May 24, 2013.
x
Youths jump into the sea to cool off on a hot day in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria May 24, 2013.
Youths jump into the sea to cool off on a hot day in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria May 24, 2013.
They have also borrowed billions from abroad and delayed payments to oil companies and other suppliers.
 
Yet partly due to fuel subsidies, energy consumption remains high as the state grapples to pay for imports of fuel to generate electricity.
 
In April, Qatar and Libya extended loans worth $5 billion, and Libya said it would provide another $1.2 billion in credit to buy crude oil for Egypt at world prices.
 
But this will only plug a portion of the country's energy gap, and still leaves Egypt needing to find fuel on the international market, get it from ports to power plants, keep those plants running at near full capacity and deliver the electricity to consumers across a leaky power grid.
 
This is proving difficult, with rolling blackouts throughout the country, some for up to 10 hours at a time, which prompted protests in late May, and a heat wave in early June that pushed temperatures in Cairo to 45 degrees Celsius, only compounding the problem.
 
In some places, people blocked roads and railways to demand power - needed in many apartments to pump water.
 
In the ancient Pharaonic capital of Luxor, local governor Ezzat Saad told Reuters that power cuts blacked out major tourist sites last month, including the 3,400-year-old temple. He said he had appealed to Cairo to prevent such incidents.
 
Infrastructure issues
 
Last summer, during the hottest days, electricity consumption peaked at 27,000 megawatts (MW) and seems likely to do so again this year, pressing the power sector to its limits.
 
“In the summer, [during] Ramadan... on some days [demand] could rise to 29,000,” Aktham Abou-Elella, undersecretary of state at the Electricity Ministry, told Reuters.
 
“We can't operate at more than 86 percent of capacity - 27,000 is our ceiling. Anything above that, we for sure need to conserve energy.”
 
The government is hoping a public awareness campaign can help cut demand this summer.
 
“It could result in a reduction in consumption of 2,000 MW at least, especially setting air-conditioners at 25 degrees rather than 18 degrees and turning off unnecessary lights,” Abou-Elella said.
 
Mosques and government buildings will be urged to save electricity, he said, adding that the ministry had agreed with energy-intensive industries to smooth out peak loads.
 
Abou-Elella estimated that blackouts might last no more than an hour a day but hoped the government plans to manage demand would work.
 
“If all these attempts succeed, we should have an acceptable summer,” he said.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Nikos from: Greece
June 11, 2013 4:13 PM
Arabs have always flooded into vacuums left by other cultures... I see Alexandria... the Jewel of the Greek Empire... look what the arabs have done to it... filth and diseased Arabs

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs