CAIRO: Blessed with year-round sunlight and soft winds, Egypt has strong potential to produce green energy, said Gerhard Sabathil, European Commission’s directorate general for external relations.
“Because of its geographical location, climate and sun, Egypt has potential for renewable energy.and can become a key contributor in solar and wind energy, he said.
“Germany, for example, alone constitutes for half of solar energy in Europe.
And Germany is not the sunniest place in Europe. . So imagine what a country like Egypt can [do].
Sabathil’s remarks were made during a two-day round table that aimed to contribute to policy debate in key areas of energy prices and stimulate investment in energy infrastructure, focusing on oil, gas, and renewable energy.
The event – which closed on Thursday – was organized by the Euro-Arab Mashreq Gas Co-operation Centre (EAMGCC), a regional organization established in January 2006 to promote development of gas markets in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, as well as strengthen their links to EU markets.
“Pressure and sense of urgency are mounting on both sides of the Mediterranean . to invest both economically and politically in energy, said Ambassador Klaus Ebermann, head of the delegation of the European Commission (EC) in Cairo. “And in light of the global economic crunch, we [have to look into] making the right sort of investment.
Egypt and the EC signed last December a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance bilateral energy cooperation. Areas covered by MoU include energy market reforms, convergence of Egypt’s energy market with that of the EU, promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency, development of energy networks as well as technological and industrial cooperation.
Sabathil stated that with best-suited partnerships for development of clean and sustainable energy, Egypt could maintain its position as a key energy player in the region.
“[While] investing in renewable energy is capital intensive, it is less expensive on the long-term. It’s the most sustainable form of energy on the long-term, he added.
The MoU could line Egypt up as an important energy supplier for Europe via the Nabucco gas pipeline – a flagship project to deliver Central Asian and Middle-Eastern gas to Europe that could help bolster Europe’s energy security. Egypt is already Europe’s sixth largest supplier of natural gas, said Sabathil.
Egypt has proven crude oil and condensate reserves of around 4.189 billion barrels, and natural gas reserves of around 76 trillion cubic feet, according to Reuters data. It is a major natural gas exporter, both by pipeline through Jordan and in liquefied form by ship.
About 70 percent of Egypt’s gas production is supplied to local markets, while 30 percent is exported, Ismail Karara, first undersecretary for gas affairs at Egypt’s ministry of petroleum, said on the sidelines of the round table.
Egyptian natural gas production will rise by about 6 percent, reaching 69 billion cubic meters (bcm) in the current fiscal year to meet more demand from the local market, he told reporters on Wednesday, adding that total production in the previous fiscal year 2007/8 stood at 65 bcm.
The Nabucco pipeline could reduce European dependence on Russian gas, which was heavily disrupted this winter leaving millions of eastern Europeans without heating during two of this winter’s coldest weeks. About 20 percent of Europe’s gas supply was cut off due to a row between Russia and Ukraine.
Last August’s brief war between Russia and Georgia heightened European concerns over energy security after the Russian invasion of Georgia disrupted oil supplies.
By 2020, Nabucco could transport 31 bcm of gas annually with the addition of further Caspian and Middle Eastern supplies from countries including Turkmenistan, Iraq, Iran and Egypt.
In this context, an Arab Gas Pipeline passing through Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria is currently in the making. The ?7 million project is financed by a ?6 million grant from the EC while the four beneficiaries will cover the remaining ?1 million. The pipeline would stretch as far as Turkey to facilitate links to the European gas market.
Besides exporting natural gas to Europe, Egypt’s gas started flowing to Israel through a pipeline for the first time in May 2008 under an agreement signed in 2005 for the supply of 1.7 bcm annually over 20 years.
A Cairo court ruled last week that Egyptian gas exports to Israel could continue, pending a review of a November court verdict that the exports should stop.
Public and parliamentary uproar over terms of Egypt’s export deals to Israel – which are said to be at much cheaper terms than domestic prices – drove Oil Minister Sameh Fahmy to agree last year to renegotiate all gas contracts and hold off signing new deals until 2010.
Karara told reporters present at the energy round table that Egypt could negotiate higher prices for natural gas exports to Israel.