Ambitious Plans

Egypt aims to strengthen and diversify its grid network

Egypt, one of northern Africa’s large­st economies and the most crowded country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with more than 100 million inhabitants, is steadily moving to­wards clean energy.

The country has achieved an electrification rate of more than 95 per cent. How­ever, due to rapid population growth and an expanding economy, the country conti­nues to witness an increase in energy de­mand. Given Egypt’s limited and depleting fossil fuel reserves, the country is now turning to renewable energy to meet the rising power demand.

The country’s high voltage grid develo­per, the Egyptian Electricity Transmi­ssion Co­m­pany (EETC) is working towards esta­b­lish­ing a robust grid network acro­ss the country to leverage the upcoming capa­city and expand the regional power ex­change th­rough cross-border interconnections.

Sector overview and recent growth trends

Egypt’s electricity sector is dominated by the state-owned Egyptian Electricity Hol­ding Company (EEHC). The EEHC is affi­li­ated with 16 companies – six for electricity generation (Cairo, Hydro Power Pl­ant Executive Authority, East Delta, West De­lta, Upper Egypt, and Middle Delta el­ec­tricity production companies); nine for di­s­tribution (North Cairo, South Ca­iro, Al­­exandria, Canal, North Delta, South De­l­ta, Behera, Middle Egypt, and Upper Egypt electricity distribution compani­es); and one for transmission (EETC). Eg­y­pt also has privately owned power pl­­­a­­n­ts that were built under the build-own-operate-transfer model.

Private electricity distributors are also allowed to develop, implement, operate and maintain the distribution network in a licensed geographical area. Curren­tly, ar­ound 33 companies have the licence to distribute electricity in the country. How­ever, the EEHC holds the monopoly in the distribution sector, accounting for 99 per cent of the network.

The Ministry of Electricity and Rene­w­able Energy (MERE) is in charge of de­ve­loping sector plans, recommending el­ec­tricity pri­ces and supervising the study and exe­cu­tion of critical projects. The Egyptian El­ec­tric Utility and the Consu­mer Pro­tection Regulatory Agen­cy oversee Egypt’s electricity sector (Egypt ERA).

In the early 2010s, the country’s generation sector faced many challenges, incl­uding an ageing generation fleet (one-third of th­ermal generation capacity was over 20 years old), fuel shortages, load shedding, and high transmission constraints and losses. To address these cha­llenges, the go­vernment focused on fast-tracking the development of the generation sector by developing both mega-scale conventional power plants and renewable energy-based capacity and involving the private sector. Bet­ween 2015 and 2021, around 28.5 GW of ge­n­e­r­a­tion capacity was added to the Egyptian power grid, enabling the country to become a power-surplus nation from a power-deficit one.

Egypt has increased its share of renewables-based resources (primarily wind and solar) over the years to reduce its re­liance on fossil fuels. During the past five to six years, the share of renewable en­ergy sources has increased at a CAGR of 35 per cent. The completion of the 1,465 MW Benban solar park in 2019 was a significant achievement in this context. It is the largest solar power plant in the world, with a $2 billion investment.

To support the new generation capacity, the EETC has worked relentlessly on the ex­pansion and strengthening of the country’s high voltage grid. Between 2015 and 2021, around 4,136 km of new lines, 31,875 MVA of transformer capacity and 19 new substations at the 500 kV level were added to the grid.

It is estimated that Egypt’s high voltage net­work comprised 31,840 km of transmission lines and 112,207 MVA of capacity at voltages from 132 kV to 500 kV by the end of June 2021.

During 2020-21 fiscal, the EETC invested approximately EGP 7.7 billion to im­p­ro­ve the performance of the electrical network and maintain the quality of electrical supply, with the total amount of energy sold during the year amounting to approximately 189 TWh. The investment was aim­ed at improving net­wo­rk efficiency and re­ducing losses in or­der to transfer sustainable electric energy from all sources to all customers.

The past investments and initiatives have strengthened the electricity sector with electricity transmission and distribution networks. The sector is capable of absor­bing and benefiting from large capacities that will be added from new and renewable energy sources.

Egypt’s efforts to transform its power sector have been supported by financial assistance from multilateral lending in­sti­tutions such as the European Invest­ment Bank, the World Bank, the Arab Fund for Econo­mic and Social Develop­ment, and the Agence Française de Dé­ve­loppement.

The Egyptian government had also an­nounced plans to privatise the electri­city sector by 2025, transforming it from a vertically integrated, regulated state mo­no­poly model to a fully competitive market. Separating power generation from transmission and distribution is part of the privatisation programme. How­­ever, little pro­gress has been made in this regard and the 2025 privatisation de­adline is not likely to be met.

Transition to green energy

Renewable energy

The overall goal of Egypt’s Vision 2030 is to achieve a diversified, competitive and balanced economy within the framework of sustainable development. Egypt has vast untapped renewable energy re­so­ur­ces, with a potential to add approximately 90 GW of wind and solar energy capacities. In 2015, the Egyptian government also launched the Integrated Su­stainable Energy Strategy (ISES) 2035, whi­ch was developed on a least-cost sc­enario. It aims to ensure the energy sector’s technical and financial sustainability while also pursuing energy diversification through renewable energy penetration. The ISES aims to produce 20 per cent of the country’s electricity from renewable en­ergy sources, including so­lar, wind, concentrating solar power and hydro, by 2022, and 42 per cent by 2035. Furthermore, coal has been phas­ed out of the energy mix and replaced with renewable energy. Over the years, the go­vernment has formu­lated various policies and strategies to att­ract and in­centivise private sector investment in the renewables’ generation segment. Go­ing forward, the majority of rene­wable energy projects will be developed by private companies.

Currently, around 3,500 MW of renewable energy ca­pacity is under development on a build-own-operate (BOO) ba­sis by the private sector. When this capacity comes online by 2023, it will in­crease the country’s renewable energy ca­pacity to 10,000 MW. Some of the upcoming rene­wable en­ergy projects are a 30 MW solar PV power plant in Benban un­der the Eu­ro­pe­an Bank for Recon­struc­tion and Deve­lopment; the 250 MW Gulf of Suez 1 wind farm set up by the New and Rene­wable Energy Authority and expected to generate 1,000 GWh of clean energy; and the 600 MW West Nile solar power project, owned and managed by Sky Power and EETC BOO.

Green hydrogen

The Egyptian government is focusing on developing green hydrogen. In January 2021, the EEHC signed an MoU with Sie­me­ns to jointly develop a hydrogen-based industry with export capability.

A cooperation agreement was also sign­ed in March 2021 between the EEHC, the Abou­kir Ports Construction and Mana­ge­ment Company, the Egyptian Na­tional Gas Hold­ing Company, and a consortium of Bel­gi­an companies including Dredging, En­viron­mental and Marine Engineering NV, Fluxys, and Port of Antwerp, to prepare a fea­sibility study for establishing a green hydrogen production project (HYPORT-EGYPT) covering various locations in Eg­ypt.

The Egyptian government has also signed an MoU with Italian company Eni to work on joint projects for the production of green and blue hydrogen. Also, the world’s first 100 MW project ba­s­ed on green hydrogen is expected to come online in Egypt. This project will be developed in collaboration with Egy­pt’s Oras­com, Norway’s Scatec, and the wo­r­ld’s largest export-focused nitrogen fe­rtiliser platform Fertiglobe. The comp­letion date for this project is set for October 2022, just in time for COP27.

Waste-to-energy

To meet the rising demand, the country is not only shifting towards generating more energy from renewable resources, but it is also looking for different environmentally friendly ways to meet the future demand and make the country an energy hub.

The Egyptian government is looking to develop projects based on waste-to-en­ergy (WtE) technology to meet the future demand. According to the Minis­try of En­vironment, 20 per cent of all collected mu­nicipal solid waste (MSW) will be directed to WtE technologies (ab­out 4.2 million tonnes of MSW to WtE). Electri­city generated from WtE plants could reach 300 MW in the next five years in Egypt.

Egypt as an energy hub

The country plans to transform itself into a regional energy hub, exchanging electricity with Arab, African and Euro­pe­an countries. Egypt intends to stren­gthen its re­gional cross-border links as well as build new high capacity lines connecting to European and Middle Eastern countries in order to meet this ambitious goal. The following are some of the major planned interconnection projects.

Egypt-Saudi Arabia Grid Interconnec­tion Project: The EETC and National Grid SA, a subsidiary of the Saudi Electricity Com­pa­ny, are developing an interconnection project that aims to connect the grids of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The project en­tails the construction of a ±500 kV multi-te­rminal high voltage direct current (HVDC) link from Badr in Egypt to El-Madinah El Munawara via Tabuk in Saudi Arabia. The interconnector will have a tra­nsfer capacity of 3,000 MW. It will allow Egypt and Saudi Arabia to capitalise on differences in their peak power de­ma­nd times, facilitate trade, and generate cost savings of around $3.7 billion. The package of contracts for the electrical in­ter­co­nnection was signed in October 2021. The investment for the Egyptian side is estimated at $1.8 billion.

Egypt-Jordan Grid Interconnection Proj­ect: Currently, the interconnection capacity between the two countries is 450 MW. The two countries are looking to increase this capacity to 1,100 MW. For this, a 27 km, 400 kV overhead line and a 12 km undersea cable connecting Taba (Egypt) and Aq­aba (Jordan) is proposed to be constructed. The project will cost Euro 198 million, with Euro 62 million going towards the construction of new transmission facilities and the re­maining Euro 136 million going towards reinforcement work in the respective countries. The project’s feasibility study is currently under way.

Egypt-Sudan Interconnection Pro­je­ct: The first phase of this project, which en­tailed the construction of a 220 kV interconnection line from Toshka in Egypt to Wadi Hal­fa in Sudan, was energised in April 2021 to enable 80 MW of power exchange bet­ween the two countries. Phase II entails increasing the ex­change capacity to 300 MW. For this, static synchronous com­pen­sators (STATCOMs) are being install­ed by Sie­me­ns at the Dongola and Mero­we stations in Sudan. The substations are ex­pe­cted to be completed in April 2023. In the longer term, the aim is to further bo­o­st the power exchange capacity bet­we­en the two countries to 1,000 MW.

EuroAfrica Interconnector: The project will link the electricity grids of Egypt, Cyprus and Greece via a subsea direct current (DC) cable and onshore HVDC converter stations. In its initial stage, the interconnection will have a transmission capacity of 1,000 MW, which will later be increased to 2,000 MW. The line will run from Damietta in Egypt to the Kofinou station in Cyprus via a subsea route. Furthermore, Cyprus will be link­ed via another subsea route to Korakia in Crete (Greece), and from there the cable route will continue to Attica in mainland Gr­eece. The interconnector will be 1,707 km long and will inclu­de the construction of four converter stations – one in Egypt, one in Cyprus, one in Crete and one in Attica – with the multi-terminal operation to connect Egypt to Gr­eece via Cyprus. Currently, te­chnical studies for the undersea link are under way.

Egypt-Jordan-GCCIA: The planned grid connection aims to establish a link bet­ween the Gulf Cooperation Council Inter­connection Authority’s (GCCIA) existing grid network, which connects its six member countries – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bah­rain, Qatar, Oman and the UAE – via a 1,400 km, 400 kV overhead line (OHL) to the interconnection point in Jordan, and then with Egypt via a 780 km, 400 kV OHL. The existing in­ter­con­nection project was es­tablished in 2001 and has a transmissi­on capacity of up to 1,200 MW.

The first phase of the proposed interconnection transmission link is expec­ted to tra­nsmit 2,000 MW of power bet­ween the GCC countries, and Egypt and Jordan, but the transmission capacity may be increased depending upon their power demand. The project aims to enhance the reliability of power systems, improve energy quality and further establish an energy market in the Arab region.

The EETC, Jordan’s National Electric Po­w­er Company and the GCCIA recently reached an agreement on the founding principles of this project. The three parties have agreed on an action plan to complete the required procedures before the end of 2022 – preparation of a business case report outlining the benefits of the interconnection (based on a feasibility study) and regulatory structure, in additi­on to risks and financing options.

Conclusion

In light of the ISES 2035 renewable en­ergy targets, Egypt’s transmission utility is working to build a strong grid network to evacuate power from planned generation capacity and supply it to its customers across the country. The country is also looking to fully utilise its strategic geographical location and develop various grid interconnections with North African, Arab and Mediterranean countries to facilitate power trade, thereby driving the country’s economic growth and development.

To fully reap the benefits of the upcoming capacity and establish cross-border inter­connections, future transmission investments are expected to be largely directed towards developing the grid infrastructure to evacuate power from new generation pl­ants, including a significant number of re­newable energy projects. Invest­ments are also envisaged in grid refurbishment and modernisation.

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