Two solar projects in Egypt with a combined 130 megawatts of capacity began commercial operations, a sign that the country is starting to realize its strong renewable-energy potential. 

On Aug. 18, Elsewedy Electric and EDF Renewables started operations at the photovoltaic plants that are  part of Egypt’s Renewable Energies Feed-in-Tariff programme. The companies jointly financed, built and now own and operate the sites located at Bendan in Aswan Province, about 515 miles (830 kilometers) south of Cairo. EDF is a subsidiary of Électricité de France S.A, Europe’s biggest electricity producer.

“Having those two projects reaching commercial operation successfully today extends the IPPs-portfolio under Elsewedy Electric to include solar photovoltaic in addition to our existing wind and hydro IPPs, being one of the pioneer-companies in the region with such diversified portfolio of investment and management in renewable energies supplemented by our proven references as main EPC-contractor for the three technologies,” Ahmed Elsewedy, president and CEO of Elsewedy Electric, said in a statement.

The solar plants should provide power for more than 140,000 homes while avoiding more than 120,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. 

Egypt has plenty of land, sun and high wind speeds, making it an ideal location for renewable power. The country has liberalized its energy sector, allowing foreign investment in electricity generation in the hope of boosting capacity and eliminating Egypt’s frequent summer blackouts.

The Egyptian government launched the Feed-in-Tariff program in 2015 to spur development in the renewable sector. Solar investors have been offered contracts to provide the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company with energy under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

The Elsewedy-EDF projects are part of the Benban Solar Park, which when all 32 contiguous solar projects are complete, will have close to 2,000 megawatts capacity, making it the world’s largest solar installation. Scatec Solar, a Norwegian solar developer, announced on August 19 that commercial operations had begun at its 65 megawatt plant at Benban.

Egypt’s immense renewable resources have also attracted off-grid investment. KarmSolar  is Egypt’s largest private off-grid solar integrator, with experience in developing high-capacity solar pumping stations, including the region’s largest off-grid Hybrid Pumping & Irrigation System. The company also offers megawatt-scale, off-grid solar energy stations and grid-connected utility-scale plants. It has been active in the country’s agricultural, industrial, tourism and business sectors since 2011.

  • Wind power has also received a boost from reforms. A trio of Egyptian, French and Japanese companies is expected to finish a 250 megawatt capacity wind farm in the Gulf of Suez in October. Earlier this month, Lekela, a Dutch company that provides renewable power in Africa, announced funding for a 250 megawatt project in Egypt.
  • Egypt was a major natural gas exporter but the diversion to meeting domestic power needs has reduced the flow. The discovery of new resources and reforms should allow the country to boost gas exports. The use of renewables to meet local power needs will make more gas available for export.
  • Karma’s Takeaway: Developing countries offer many opportunities for impact investors in renewable energy. Their resources are often more abundant than in countries where most investment has occurred, so far, and where there’s unmet demand.