The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECERS) issued a new report on Monday outlining an alternative strategy for the energy ecosystem in Egypt by 2030.
Ever since the early stages of the decision to integrate fossil resources, such as coal, in the energy ecosystem, environmentalists in Egypt have been raising concerns over its hazardous environmental and health risks.
“When we speak about the dangers of coal, we have been continually criticised for not presenting alternative solutions,” Amena Sharaf, researcher at ECESR, told Daily News Egypt. “This is the main objective of this report, to present viable solutions with comprehensive details, data, and scientific methods.”
According to Sharaf, the report is an outcome of a year-long workshop between ECESR and the organisation Heinrich Boll Stiftung (HBS). The workshops tackled both the technical and social aspects of the announced government strategy in energy by 2030. The strategy also tackles the use of coal and nuclear power.
The joint report, entitled 80 Gigawatts of Change, presents a comprehensive look on a more environmentally friendly energy mix for Egypt by 2030; taking into consideration the expenses for both the citizens and government, the greenhouse gas emissions, and sheds light on the potential to create a larger energy efficient industry.
Minister of Environment Khaled Fahmy said, following the recent cabinet reshuffle, that he will cooperate with parliament in ratifying the amended environment law.
He said there will be different strategies for reviewing the energy issue in Egypt with the cabinet. Those strategies include nuclear energy, coal use, and petroleum, in addition to renewable energy strategies such as solar and wind power.
A copy of the report provided to Daily News Egypt stated that in order to reach the limit of 1.5 degrees of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by 2050, fossil coal extraction has to decrease by 82%. “Thereby, this decision comes with consequences that cannot be contained in the future.”
The report also highlighted several pitfalls of the government’s strategy for energy mixing. First, it said that it did not include a clear amount of coal allowed for use. Second, coal use will essentially need massive amounts of water for cooling and reducing its emissions. “Given the current water shortage in Egypt, this solution, or any other energy solutions that integrate water use, is completely unreliable for the next 50 years,” the report stated.
Using water for coal use still does not make it less hazardous. The report estimated the CO2 emissions of integrating coal in the energy mix are upwards of 50 million tonnes, much more than that of natural gas.
The social cost of using coal was estimated at $16m in addition to a decline in job opportunities to just 100,000 per year, according to the report. There is also an additional cost for importing coal through ports as Egypt does not have fossil coal.
A controversial decision to start integrating coal in the industrial energy mix by the end of 2015 was issued in April 2015 by former prime minister Ibrahim Mehleb. There was also an amendment in the conduct of the environment law, which allowed for coal imports after it was prohibited.
The move followed an acute shortage in natural gas supplies for factories, raising major concerns among environmental activists and families living near factories and power stations.